Celiac Disease Awareness Month

by Christine Carlson, C.N.


Also know as gluten intolerance, Celiac Disease (CD) is caused by the protein gluten, present in several grains, such as wheat, rye, barley, and spelt, which can adversely affect the lining of the small intestine. Classic symptoms are diarrhea, weight loss, and overt malnutrition. Historically, CD was diagnosed if the above symptoms were present and a small intestine biopsy was positive. Today, however, there is a spectrum of symptoms associated with gluten intolerance, ranging from the extremes listed above to the vague: fatigue, bloating, nausea, numbness, osteoporosis, thyroid dysfunction, and skin disorders.


A genetic disease

An auto-immune disease

A disorder of malabsorption

And CD, when it had never been a health factor, may become activated by a trauma, such as childbirth, surgery, viral infection, or a severe mental/emotional stressor.


When CD is suspected, a variety of tests may be performed. These include:

A complete blood count (CBC)

Antibody blood tests

An endoscopy (EGD) with small bowel biopsy

Genetic marker HLA testing to show genetic tendency Unfortunately, even these test results can be inconclusive. The small bowel biopsy, once considered the "gold standard" for diagnosing CD, may still return negative if the area tested is not injured since the damage does not usually affect 100% of the small intestine.


Osteoporosis—Resulting from mineral and vitamin D malabsorption. Bone loss is common in chronic, undiagnosed CD.

Thyroid dysfunction—Hashimoto's Thyroiditis, hypothyroidism, and Grave's disease are auto-immune related reactions and may be caused by gluten. Many health practitioners now recommend a trial gluten-free diet.

Dairy intolerance—Some CD sufferers may also experience this, especially during the "active" stages.


The main therapy is life-long avoidance of foods with gluten. These include breads, crackers, cookies, cereals, pastas—anything made from wheat, rye, barley and spelt. Oats, though not technically containing gluten, may need to be avoided because of crosscontamination in fields and processing. In addition, there are many prepared food items—and even some medications—that contain gluten in one form or another.With gluten-free products available, it's easier to avoid conventional versions of these products.

Once avoidance of gluten, and in some cases dairy, is initiated, other therapies can involve supplementation, which help heal the intestinal lining. These include:

Permeability Factors from Integrative Therapeutics, which contains N-acetyl D-Glucosamine, gamma orazynol, and L-glutamine. Research shows N-acetyl glucosamine tends to be deficient in individuals with inflammatory bowel disease.

Dairy-free probiotics, such as Klaire Labs' Pro 5 is one of the few truly dairy-free probiotics available.

Omega-3 essential fatty acids, such as Eskimo 3 from Integrative Therapeutics.

Seacure, a pre-digested source of bioactive peptides and biogenic amines heals the intestinal mucosal lining and improves intestinal permeability.

A good multiple vitamin and mineral supplement, such as Pioneer's Calcium Magnesium Bone Protein & Trace Mineral Complex or Integrative Therapeutic's OsteoPrime Forte, are high-potency, bioavailable formulas and beneficial to restoring function to the endocrine and immune systems and rebuild bone. Pioneer is the only manufacturer to specially formulate products with verified gluten-free processing and testing. By using only gluten-free ingredients, then testing each batch of finished product at an independent lab, Pioneer ensures that cross-contamination has not occurred.

Digestive enzymes, such as Mega-Zyme 10X Original from Enzymatic Therapy, are useful to increase nutrient assimilation from supplements and food.

CD/gluten intolerance is a more widespread disorder than previously thought and often a cause of osteoporosis and thyroid dysfunction. It does not necessarily manifest as a digestive disease and can be difficult to confirm with diagnostic testing. Educating yourself on glutencontaining products and avoiding them completely can reverse most symptoms. Adding the appropriate nutritional supplementation to a gluten-free diet can speed healing and recovery.