Supporting Your Digestion with Probiotics
While Living with
Celiac Disease and Gluten Sensitivity
Let’s get the disclosures out of the way first: no, I am not a doctor or a dietician. But, I’ve been fortunate enough to have worked in the natural industry for over 10 years, and have had the opportunity to achieve several certifications in wellness, including becoming a certified enzyme and digestive care expert.
Celiac disease is an allergy to gluten, which is a protein found in wheat, barley, and rye grains. It is believed to affect close to one percent of all adults in the US population. For people who have been diagnosed with celiac disease, following a gluten-free diet is the only definitive way to improve symptoms and prevent future health problems. The presence of celiac disease and gluten sensitivity has been rising significantly over the past decade; there is, however, still a debate as to the reason behind it. Some will pass blame on over-processed grains and foods, while others will quickly point to the GMOs, pesticides, and other chemicals used on crops across the US these days.
Many celiac disease symptoms come down to the digestive tract not being able to function properly, primarily within the gut and intestines. Celiac falls within the autoimmune disease category, and is characterized by an inflammatory response to gluten that results in damaged tissue within the small intestine. One of the biggest issues with this inflammatory response, is that it can cause the small intestines to no longer work properly. The majority of our nutrients are absorbed and processed in the small intestines, so this causes people suffering with celiac disease to be malnourished and suffer with inflammation in the gut.
Without being tested by a doctor, celiac disease can be difficult to truly diagnose correctly, due to the variety of symptoms it can cause. The range includes:
- cramping and abdominal pain
- diarrhea or constipation
- “brain fog“
- changes in weight
- sleep disturbances (including insomnia)
- chronic fatigue or lethargy
- nutritional deficiencies
- chronic headaches
- joint and bone pains
- anxiety and mood swings
- tingling numbness in the hands and feet
- irregular periods, infertility, or recurrent miscarriage
- canker sores inside the mouth
- thinning hair and dull skin
As you can see, some of these could seem like symptoms of menopause, thyroid health issues, adrenal fatigue, or even IBS. This is one reason why celiac disease can go on so long without being treated.
I have heard gluten sometimes called the “silent killer” because of the damage that the symptoms of celiac disease can cause while going undiagnosed and untreated. The gut microbiota is considered “ground zero” for where celiac disease symptoms first start and spread throughout various tissue.
So how do we support and protect this microbiome? Well, first things first…the most supportive supplement to the small intestines and the whole of the gut is probiotics. Probiotics are the beneficial bacteria that live throughout our body, but the majority reside in our gut. When the gut flora is imbalanced, there are a variety of health issues, including several from the list above. Probiotics can provide a soothing and protective effect to the gut, which helps to reduce flare-ups.
Some have asked me, “How long should someone be on a probiotic?” I generally answer, “Continually!”
Even if you’re actively eating a gluten-free diet, you should still consider assisting your overall digestion with a daily probiotic supplement for long-term support.
So what are some of the symptoms probiotics can assist with?
- intestinal cramping
- nutritional absorption
Some will say that they eat yogurt, drink kefir, and chow down on sauerkraut, so they don’t need to supplement. My own personal opinion though, is that if you’re dealing with a disease like celiac, there is a need for more support than just what is available in our food. An overworked, strained gut needs higher numbers of cultures and a variety of strands to be fully supported.
When shopping for a probiotic, be sure to find a formula that contains a balance of Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium, because both families of bacteria have a role to play in the gut. Wellness expert Brenda Watson worded their roles in a simplified manner: Lactobacillus helps to support the little bowel (small intestines) while Bifidobacterium helps to support the big bowel (large intestines).
In closing, we know nothing will help a celiac lifestyle better than eating a gluten-free diet. But I say, why not support your entire gut health and reduce symptoms of painful flare-ups by supplementing with probiotics as well?
Stay tuned to the Delectably Different Kitchen blog, because next time we’ll discuss the role enzymes play to support a better, healthier, digestive system.