Should you be eating a gluten-free diet?

These days all you seem to hear about is gluten free! Is this a new fad diet or is it because some people really do not feel good when they eat gluten? Is this because you have celiac disease?

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These days all you seem to hear about is gluten free! Is this a new fad diet or is it because some people really do not feel good when they eat gluten? Is this because you have celiac disease?

It really does matter the reason and anyone thinking of avoiding gluten should have some important testing done first. As someone who has celiac disease, I understand the importance of getting an appropriate diagnosis.

A three-year-old patient of mine was struggling with staying on the growth curve for height and weight, and experienced constant bloating and diarrhea.

His parents decided to remove several foods from his diet, including wheat, and they reported immediate improvement in his digestion and bowels.

Within three months, he had grown significantly and gained eight pounds.

However, taking foods out indiscriminately like this is problematic because it is unclear which food is the main culprit since many foods were removed at once.

It is even more problematic when you have to test for celiac disease and for a gluten intolerance, as gluten needs to be in the diet for at least three weeks prior to testing.

In this case, this child had to go through the process of adding gluten back into his diet for multiple weeks, dealing with stomach pain, bloating, and diarrhea.

This was very difficult on him as well as the parents and could have been avoided if testing was completed prior to gluten removal.

Why does it matter if an individual has celiac disease or is suffering from a gluten intolerance?

Because celiac disease can lead to serious consequences and is a lifelong disease.

A gluten intolerance can go away over time with the appropriate treatment and does not damage the small intestine.

Celiac disease is when an autoimmune reaction occurs with the ingestion of the gluten protein that is found in wheat, rye, oats, and barley.

Several autoimmune diseases are associated with celiac disease, and it leads to injury to the intestine, resulting in diarrhea, bloating, gas and fatigue in adults.

In children, the condition presents as irritability and failure to thrive.

In both adults and children, it can lead to serious nutritional deficiencies as well.

Celiac disease is first detected by a blood test and then is often confirmed with an intestinal biopsy.

A gluten intolerance, on the other hand, can be tested by a food intolerance blood test.

Conventional therapy of celiac disease instructs the patient to avoid gluten-containing foods.

Patient education and social support are key components in the successful management of the disease due to the amount of gluten in the foods typically eaten in North America.

In addition to gluten removal from the diet, naturopathic medical treatment includes:

• Checking the appropriate labs for any mineral/nutrient deficiencies and addressing them if present.

This may include IV nutrient therapy, which provides 100 per cent absorption regardless of intestinal health and allows for larger dosages to fix deficiencies faster.

• Vitamin B12 injections as necessary.

• Improving stomach and intestinal health by decreasing irritation with herbs/nutrients.

These may include slippery elm, marshmallow root, and L glutamine to name a few.

• Enzymes to improve fat breakdown and absorption from food being eaten.

Find out if gluten is really affecting your health by getting the appropriate testing done first.

If you or a loved one already have been diagnosed with celiac disease and want to make sure you are doing everything you can to live an optimal life, talk to your naturopathic doctor about the appropriate treatments that can be used.

Dr. Shane Johnson ND was born and raised in Red Deer and is the owner of Aspire Natural Medicine.

He completed his naturopathic medical training at Bastyr University, and is among only a handful of naturopathic doctors in Alberta to complete an additional one-year residency in family medicine.

For more detailed information on naturopathic medicine visit www.aspiremedicine.ca.

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