About a month ago, I wrote about my ongoing battles with Vitamin D and iron deficiencies. These and many more vitamin deficiencies are common in celiac disease patients, though there’s lots of evidence that the gluten free diet contributes to some of these issues as well. This month, I’m writing a series of stories on celiac disease and its relationship with nutrition, fitness, weight loss and other health issues. These are things I’m struggling with personally, so I’ll be weaving my experiences and challenges in with the science behind the issues. I’m starting the series with celiac disease and nutrition. Look for these posts on Fridays!
Celiac disease and how it affects absorption
In celiacs, eating gluten causes damage to the intestines. Specifically, it can flatten the intestinal villi, little finger-like protrusion in the intestines that are key in the absorption of nutrients. Vitamin deficiencies, anemia and osteoporosis are all common issues for celiacs, particularly right around the time of diagnosis. Adopting a gluten free diet generally allows the intestines to heal (eventually), but great damage can be done in the meantime.
Even after a gluten free diet is adopted, celiacs can still struggle to meet their nutritional needs through diet. Many commercial wheat products like breads and cereals are fortified with iron and B vitamins, and these nutrients can be harder to get when those foods are removed from the diet. In order to make up for these types of gaps in the gluten free diet, careful attention must be paid to the foods we eat. We can get what we need from food, we just have to be a little bit more creative about it.
Different vitamin and mineral deficiencies can cause different symptoms. I talked about my experience with iron deficiency symptoms here. If you are concerned about deficiencies causing issues with your health, talk to your doctor about blood tests to check your vitamin and mineral levels. Your doctor will also be able to assess if your symptoms might point to a more serious issue and get you the help you need.
Foods that provide the right nutrients
I found a great resource from the Gluten Intolerance Group that provides a load of information on which foods are the best sources of vitamins and minerals commonly deficient in a gluten free diet. Using their slide show as a starting point, I’ve created two tables of foods that show which foods are good sources of each nutrient. Hopefully this chart will help you find the foods you need to address any deficiencies you’re having, or just to assure you’re eating a balanced and healthy diet. I’ve uploaded them as images; click on each table to see the full-size version.
Have you had any vitamin or mineral deficiencies? What did you do to address them? Tell me in the comments!