This is the first post in a two part series on supplements for a gluten-free lifestyle. Part One: Rebuild what’s been lost or damaged will focus on early steps to take, while Part Two: More ways to stay healthy focuses on further steps to take if problems persist. I am not a doctor and these articles should NOT be taken as medical advice. Talk to your doctor or GP before beginning any new supplements.
If you’ve recently given up gluten and find that though you’re feeling better, you’re still having some digestive issues, you may have some intestinal issues left to clear up. Here are some of the steps I took to get back to feeling great after adopting a gluten free diet!
PLEASE NOTE: I am not a doctor. Always consult your doctor before starting or changing any vitamin and/or supplement plan.
With that settled, let’s get into this!
After about six months off gluten, I was feeling much better. I wasn’t having nearly as much joint pain, nor was I having nearly the level of “bathroom issues” I was experiencing while eating gluten. I also was looking slimmer without the gluten bloat I always got after eating wheat (sometimes, it looked like I’d swallowed a basketball!) However, I still found that my stomach was pretty sensitive, and I was still having occasional bouts of feeling pretty yucky for a day or two at a time. I tried all kinds of things under the care of my doctors, and here the things that really worked for me.
As you probably know, your digestive system is full of microorganisms that help you digest your food. What you may not know is that these same microorganisms, referred to as gut flora, are now believed to play a role in mental health, the immune system, and may even play a role in cancer risk. I gave up gluten to heal my digestive system and stop getting sick all the time. Celiac sufferers and people with gluten intolerance often find their intestinal microbe balance is thrown off from years of being sick. Even a round of antibiotics can upset the system. But, you can put back the good stuff and re-balance your gut flora, and one way to do this is through probiotics.
Probiotics are products that supply live bacteria or yeast that are intended to replenish the good gut flora and help your digestive system function better. There are many different products on the market that do this, including capsules, beverages and more. The particular probiotic I found success with is *Udo’s Choice – Super 8 Probiotic Capsules. The product description states, “Super 8 probiotic includes 8 strains of beneficial bacteria. The high level of Lactobacillus Acidophilus in this formula helps maintain proper yeast balance in the body.” Why do we care about yeast? Well, sometimes people with celiac disease or gluten intolerance end up with damaged intestines that can allow the overgrowth of Candida albicans, a yeast that causes oral thrush and vaginal yeast infections. It can also wreak havoc on your digestive system. Lactobacillus Acidophilus has been shown to inhibit the growth of Candida albicans. I found that after three months of taking the probiotic daily, I felt way better. Living in the United Kingdom, I’ve had to switch to something available here, but I’d take these if I could get my hands on them overseas.
This probably goes without saying, but make sure you are buying gluten free probiotics! Check the label.
Saccharomyces boulardii is a tropical strain of yeast sometimes used as a probiotic. The most common use for this probiotic is as a treatment for diarrhea, from a number of different causes. Diarrhea is a common symptom in celiac and gluten intolerance, especially when you’re still figuring out what’s wrong. If this is a problem for you, consider adding it to your daily supplements.
If you still need convincing, early research in mice points to the idea that this probiotic may be able to reverse celiac disease development. Human testing has not definitely concluded this yet, so please don’t expect it to cure you. Research with mice also indicated that it may be an effective treatment for Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), a common co-occurring diagnosis for many of us with gluten intolerance. So, there are many great benefits and potential benefits to taking this, and it’s relatively inexpensive. I found success with *Saccharomyces Boulardii + MOS, which claims the supplement “promotes the health of the intestinal tract, helps support beneficial microbiota in the intestinal ecosystem, and enhances immune function.” Again, you should discuss this with your doctor before beginning, but I take one capsule a day, usually in the evening (I take my probiotic in the morning.) I did try stopping this one for a while, but found I started having problems again, so I’m keeping this one as a daily must.
Recently I was traveling in South America and got a bad bout of what was likely food poisoning of some sort. I spent the day really sick and unable to hold anything, including water, down. After narrowly avoiding a trip to the hospital that evening (my fever spiked over 101F briefly), my host’s mother handed me Saccharomyces boulardii supplements to take twice daily. I started them as soon as I could hold anything down, and by the end of that first night, I was already able to eat a little (gluten-free) toast. By the end of the second day, I was back on potatoes and chicken, and on day three I was eating (and going) normally. This stuff is awesome. Don’t forget to pack it when you travel!
Adding a daily probiotic and saccharomyces boulardii supplement to your diet is the first step in getting your gut flora back on track. For best results, and especially if you are prone to yeast infections, consider temporarily adopting a low sugar, low carbohydrate diet as well. Candida thrives on sugar, so by starving it, you’ll be able to more quickly get it under control and your gut function back to normal! I adopted a grain-free diet (with minimal potato and fruit consumption) for a month to help speed the healing process along. In fact, whenever I start to feel a little off, reducing my grain intake helps me get back to feeling normal again. Talk to your doctor and see if this might be helpful for you too!
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