There are a variety of nutritional deficiencies associated with celiac disease, caused by the inability of the damaged small intestine to properly absorb enough of the nutrients. People recently diagnosed with celiac disease are commonly deficient in fiber, iron, calcium, magnesium, zinc, folate, vitamin B12, and vitamin D, as well as in calories and protein. Deficiencies in copper and vitamin B6 are also possible, but less common. The delay in puberty in children with celiac disease may partially be due to low amounts of B vitamins, iron, and folate. After treatment with a strict gluten-free diet, most patients’ small intestines recover and are able to properly absorb nutrients again and do not require supplementation. For certain patients however, nutrient supplements may be beneficial. Here are some vitamins you should be taking if you have celiac disease.
Calcium is really important but it is also easy to overdose. It is the goal to get patients to reach their calcium goal through diet and then make up any difference in a calcium supplement. Calcium citrate is better absorbed than calcium carbonate. Plus, it doesn’t cause as much gas or bloating. Calcium supplements should also contain vitamin D and magnesium to help with absorption.
2. Vitamin B6
You need vitamin B6 to help you fight off infections, maintain normal nerve function, and carry oxygen throughout your body. You also need it to keep your blood sugar within normal limits. Unfortunately, studies have shown that many people with celiac disease and following the gluten-free diet are low in vitamin B6. But there are plenty of healthy foods that can give you a boost in this important nutrient. Start with chickpeas, a cup will give you more than half of the vitamin B6 you need in a day. You can mix chickpeas into salads or eat them in the form of hummus.
3. Vitamin D
Everyone needs vitamin D. Vitamin D is very protective because it helps heal the small intestinal lining. It also helps with hormone regulation. It helps calcium get absorbed and prevents colon cancer. It’s a mood enhancer. A practitioner can easily check your blood level of vitamin D and suggest a dose based on where you live, your diet and age. Vitamin D is naturally produced by skin exposure to sunlight. Few foods in nature contain it. Salmon and mackerel, as well as fish oils, are among the best sources.
Folate, also known as folic acid, is another B vitamin. You may be familiar with folate's role in preventing birth defects, but everyone needs sufficient amounts of it to help their bodies make new cells. Lots of conventional gluten-containing foods are fortified with extra folate, so if you're eating gluten-free, you'll need to take special care to get enough.
Many people newly diagnosed with celiac have low zinc. Zinc is an often overlooked micronutrient, despite the many critical roles it plays in our health. This trace mineral is involved in over 200 enzyme systems in the body and is responsible for growth and development, helping to heal wounds and protecting our immune system. It can also help with quality of our fingernails, skin, gums and hair.
Anemia is a common symptom of celiac disease, and in fact a study shows people who are anemic at diagnosis may have worse damage to their small intestine than people whose primary celiac symptom was diarrhea. Therefore, people with celiac disease need to be more careful than average to get enough iron, either through their diets or through supplements. People who don't have celiac but who are following the gluten-free diet also need to be careful, since many people following a conventional gluten-filled diet get enough iron through fortified cereals and other products.
Eating nutrient-rich foods, especially those that are rich in the specific nutrients and vitamins you may be lacking, may help you correct deficiencies, plus it may help your general health. Make sure to include these vitamins in your regular gluten-free diet!