Diet and Nutrition

Dietary Supplements for Celiac Disease

Dietary Supplements for Celiac Disease

What is celiac disease?

Celiac disease is a hereditary autoimmune disease. Thus, it usually runs in the family of the individual. When individuals with celiac disease take any food that contains gluten, their body's immune system attacks the small intestine. In many cases, it is often difficult to diagnose the symptoms of this disease. Hence, it frequently goes unnoticed. The attacks on the small intestine can lead to damage to the villi, which are small finger-like projections that line the small intestine and help promote the absorption of nutrients in the body. Due to villi damage, the body is not able to properly absorb the nutrients leading to a host of other medical conditions and deficiencies.

Why are dietary supplements used for celiac patients?

Celiac disease is associated with numerous nutritional deficiencies, which are mostly caused by the inability of the damaged small intestine to properly absorb enough nutrients that are required by the body. Individuals who are diagnosed with celiac disease are shown to be commonly deficient in certain vitamins and minerals such as zinc, folate, iron, calcium, magnesium, riboflavin, vitamin D, niacin, and vitamin B12. Apart from these nutrients, people with celiac disease also tend to be deficient in calories and proteins. However, there are lesser chances of the individual showing signs of deficiency in copper and vitamin B6. Certain studies have shown that girls with celiac disease also had late signs of puberty. The possible reason behind it is having low amounts of iron, vitamin B, and folate in the body.

There is no known cure for celiac disease, which is autoimmune and chronic in nature. The only way to minimize the symptoms is to rebuild the immune system. Firstly, one should go for a gluten-free diet by avoiding any foods that contain gluten such as wheat, rye, or barley. However, it is also important to note that since most people are buying packaged foods, in some way or another, these foods may come in contact with gluten. For this reason, it is quite important to read the labels very carefully before purchasing any food item.

Since an individual with celiac disease can have a lot of nutrient deficiencies, it is essential to check with the doctor and undergo the necessary tests required for proper diagnosis and treatment. Doctors can recommend certain supplements to speed up the healing process and fill in any nutritional gaps.

After treatment along with a strict gluten-free diet, most patients eventually recover and are able to properly absorb the nutrients without any issues. 

Top Supplements for Celiac Patients

Vitamins and supplements can help fill in any gaps on a gluten-free diet. Below are some of the supplements that should be taken by individuals with celiac disease:

1. Mineral or Multivitamin Supplements

There are key nutrients usually missing in products that are gluten-free. Those essential nutrients are zinc, vitamin B, phosphorous, magnesium, and iron. A daily intake of multivitamins or minerals can usually provide at least 100 percent of the required nutrient levels, which cannot be acquired in the diet. These supplements can be considered as a baseline protection for an individual with celiac disease.

2. Vitamin D

Everyone needs a proper dose of vitamin D. Vitamin D is known to heal the lining on the small intestine and helps in regulating hormones. Vitamin D also gets calcium absorbed in the bones along with preventing the occurrence of colon cancer. It is also known to be a mood enhancer.

Doctors can request for a blood test to check the levels of vitamin D in the body. The dose is usually based according to your overall health, other medical conditions apart from celiac disease, age, and diet. Sunlight is known to be a natural source of vitamin D. However, stay away from those harmful UV rays. Foods that naturally contain vitamin D, and are considered as the best sources of the vitamin, are mackerel, salmon, and fish oil.

3. Zinc

Individuals who are diagnosed with celiac disease often have very low levels of zinc. Zinc is a nutrient that is often overlooked despite the vital role it plays in our overall health. Zinc is a mineral that is involved in over 200 enzyme systems and is responsible for further growth and development of the body. It also helps heal wounds easily as well as protects the immune system. Proper levels of zinc in the system can be seen by the quality of a person's nails, hair, skin, and gums. There are certain foods that are good sources of zinc, and they include beans, nuts, oyster, red meat, and whole grains.

4. Calcium

One cannot overlook the benefits provided by calcium but one can easily overdose with excess use. Instead of using calcium carbonate, choose calcium citrate instead, since it is better absorbed in the body. Also, calcium citrate does not cause too much gas or bloating. Calcium supplements should also contain vitamin D and magnesium since they help with easy absorption. In some cases, individuals may also require vitamin K. Calcium can be found in dairy products such as milk, yogurt, cheese, leafy veggies such as kale, spinach, tofu, and soybeans.

5. Magnesium

A deficiency in magnesium can lead to a lot of health complications. Magnesium is known to help with symptoms such as aching of the muscles and pain. If the muscles become affected, then it can lead to affecting the gut, one's energy levels, and the digestion process. With an adequate amount of magnesium in the body, one can have a better and peaceful sleep at night. Moreover, there would be fewer complaints regarding muscle spasms or eye twitches. Also, digestive enzymes are produced with the help of magnesium. Magnesium can be easily found in foods such as beans, peas, nuts, leafy vegetables, and seeds.

6. Vitamin B Complex or B12

Vitamin B is known to help fight off fatigue and low energy levels. This vitamin is essential for the optimal rate of metabolism in the body, repairing damaged tissues, and the production of red blood cells (RBCs). In some cases, when the intestine is damaged, the body is unable to absorb this vitamin leading to a deficiency in vitamin B12. In such cases, people are often prescribed B complex supplements. Good sources of vitamin B are fish, meat, eggs, and beans.

These vitamins and minerals are also available in the form of supplements, which can be purchased from grocery stores, pharmacies, or online websites.

7. Iron

Iron is known to ward off depression and fatigue in an individual. An individual being deficient in iron is said to be common nowadays. Up to 70-80 percent of people suffer from a lack of iron in the body. However, if you are diagnosed with celiac disease, then you could be at a higher risk of having an iron deficiency.

Vegetarians often have difficulties in maintaining the proper levels of iron in the body since the iron content of vegetables are more difficult to get absorbed than the animal-based sources. Having heavy menstrual periods, internal bleeding of any kind such as ulcers, and kidney problems are all due to a lack of iron in the body.

A lack of vitamin K can also lead to an indirect contribution to iron deficiency since it can also lead to poor blood clotting, which would lead to an increased risk of bleeding and loss of iron in the body. Iron is said to have a major impact on one's mood and energy levels. If there is a lack of iron in the body, then the production of red blood cells (RBCs) also goes down and the blood cells become pale or small. 

Iron deficiency can be easily identified by carrying out a simple blood test, and is usually diagnosed as a case of anemia. However, if people are known to have a depleted iron level in the body, then they can be suffering from very low levels of iron, which cannot be easily detected in routine blood tests. In such cases, a more sensitive blood test needs to be carried out. This test is called as serum ferritin. Individuals with celiac disease should specifically undergo this test if they continue to notice symptoms of iron deficiency.

The richest source of iron is meat, especially beef, turkey, lamb, and dark chicken. Prune juice, pumpkin seeds, and raisins are also known to contain iron. However, for better absorption in the body, they should be eaten along with foods rich in vitamin C such as citrus fruits or juice. Studies have revealed that celiac patients, even after staying gluten-free for a longer duration, would show signs of iron deficiency. Hence, doctors should continuously monitor the ferritin levels of celiac patients and aim for at least 45. 

Supplements are often required to reverse the long-standing deficiency. Many iron supplements contain ferrous sulfate, which can lead to stomach pain, constipation, and nausea, especially if this supplement is taken on an empty stomach. A better-tolerated supplement for iron is iron bisglycinate.

Note that excessive iron intake can also lead to an increased risk of heart-related problems and organ damage. Men and postmenopausal women should avoid taking iron supplements unless specifically prescribed by the doctor.

8. Calcium Acetate (PhosLo)

Calcium acetate is a medication used for reducing the levels of phosphate in the late stage of kidney failure. It is basically a phosphate binder and works by preventing phosphate in the stomach and intestines being absorbed into the body. Anyone who is allergic to the contents present in calcium acetate should not be using it. Also, it should be avoided if the individual has high blood calcium levels in the body called as hypercalcemia.

Before start taking calcium acetate, inform the doctor if you are pregnant, planning for a pregnancy, nursing a baby, and if you are currently on other medications, vitamins, and supplements whether prescribed or non-prescribed, since there can be chances of drug interactions.

Do not take this drug if you have low levels of phosphate, if you have certain allergies on food, medicine, or other substances, and if you are on medication for seizures, or have a fast heartbeat. Digoxin can cause a possible interaction with calcium acetate since it can lead to an increased risk of side effects such as irregular heartbeat.

Calcium acetate should be taken as instructed by the doctor or you can check the label of the medicine for further instructions on the dosage. You also have to take this medication with meals. Avoid taking calcium acetate along with eltrombopag, quinolone, thyroid hormones, estramustine, and tetracycline. Talk with your doctor about how to maintain a gap on the intake of these medicines.

The common side effect of calcium acetate is mild nausea. The severe side effects of the drug, although rare, are sluggishness, constipation, having a difficulty in breathing, pain in the chest, allergic reactions that tend to get severe, weakness in the muscles, severe nausea, frequent urination, and loss of consciousness.