Yes, that’s right, even the bread crumbs from normal wheat bread in the same toaster as a gluten free slice of bread can be enough to affect someone with Coeliac’s disease. Coeliac’s disease is so much more than just avoiding eating foods with gluten in it, cross-contamination can be just as harmful! Today on the blog I discuss what Coeliac’s disease is and how it can be managed…
I was diagnosed with Coeliac’s disease when I was 15 years old after spending a year feeling constantly fatigued and spending more time sick with colds and sinus infections than I was healthy.Growing up I had always had an aversion to bread and cereals opting for rice for breakfast over toast, but it was never questioned. 6 years on and I am finally feeling like I have energy again. My gut has taken a long time to heal and it still is recovering as it is definitely a marathon not a sprint to gain gut health.
Coeliac’s disease is a genetic autoimmune disease causing an allergy to gluten. Gluten is a protein found in food (particularly grains) including wheat, oats, barley and rye. Symptoms of Coeliac’s disease include bloating, stomach cramps or diarrhoea after eating gluten, fatigue, inflammation, nutrient deficiencies and malabsorption (lucky me right). Testing is done via a simple blood test and to get an accurate reading it is important that you don’t sustain from gluten before the test (I know it sucks) because you can get a false-negative result. If the test comes back positive you will be sent for an endoscopy/ colonoscopy to collect a biopsy for confirmation of Coeliac’s disease as well as to assess the condition of your stomach and bowel lining.
When someone with Coeliac’s disease has been exposed to gluten for extended periods of time without being aware of their allergy (or are aware but choose to ignore it) the villi which are little finger-like projections in the epithelial lining of your stomach become damaged and flattened. The villi are there to absorb the nutrients from the food you consume, therefore when they are flattened nutrient absorption is lowered, hence why people with Coeliac’s commonly have nutrient deficiencies such as iron, folate, vitamin B12, calcium and zinc. In the process of gluten damaging the gut lining, the good bacteria that fight off the bugs in your body are also destroyed leaving you more susceptible to infections such as candida albicans and a lowered immunity.
That’s where we (nutritionist’s) step in. Once gluten has been identified as the cause and has been removed from the diet the next step is to repair the stomach and intestines to increase absorption and put the good bacteria back in. To put it simply if you don’t heal the gap junctions caused by gluten destruction in your stomach first, your gut is practically a sieve that is flushing away all your money and time spent providing it with supplements and wholesome foods. Healing your gut permeability will not only increase the absorption of your nutrients, improve your stools and reduce toxins being reabsorbed into your body, it will also reduce feelings of fatigue and lethargy.
There are serious long-term consequences for people with Coeliac’s that go undiagnosed or choose not to follow a strict gluten free diet including osteoporosis, bowel cancer and other autoimmune diseases just to name a few. As it is a genetic disease, making sure family members are tested as well is an important step in early diagnosis, as the earlier the diagnosis the less likely these health consequences will occur. If you have been recently diagnosed, don’t expect everything to change over night. It is like anything good in life- with a little time and a lot of love your gut will find its way back to optimal health soon enough!