Life in the Trenches—Recovering from Celiac Disease
I first learned of celiac disease while studying for my masters in nutrition and immunology at Texas A&M University. Prior to this, I had been sick for over six years with unexplained health problems. After discussing my options with a local physician, I decided to try the gluten free diet. Within days the symptoms had resolved! Ten years and two healthy children later, I am still gluten free. In an effort to help bring celiac disease into the mainstream, I have recently published a Christian romance novel, Trusting for Tomorrow, that highlights the struggles of diagnosing and living with celiac disease. Follow my blog at www.jenniferinjupiter.wordpress.com.
Of course, rule number one for all of us is to stay gluten free. But, focusing on avoidance alone, can get depressing. Instead, I like to focus on what I can do to strengthen my digestive system. That way, all the good gluten free food I am consuming can actually benefit my body. What good is eating healthy if you are unable to absorb the nutrients? Pouring healthy food into a compromised gut would be as wasteful as pouring dollar bills over an ATM machine and hoping in vain to strengthen your bank account balance.
Research shows that those of us with celiac disease/gluten intolerance often have decreased absorption despite following a strict gluten free diet. Scott Adams summarized one of these articles on the celiac.com website back in 2003. The article by Lee SK, et al. entitled “duodenal histology in Patients with Celiac Disease after Treatment with a Gluten-free Diet” implied that even though patients may feel better on a gluten-free diet, there may still be damaged intestinal areas that are incapable of optimal nutrient absorption. Since specific nutrients are absorbed along specific locations in the small intestine, this can have long-term ramifications. For instance, the proximal portion of the intestine is the site for absorption of vitamin B6 (pyroxidine). If that portion is damaged, there will be decreased absorption, and your body will be deficient in B6. You may then experience a range of neurological symptoms such as nervousness, irritability, and shakiness. And, as happened in my case, you may see a doctor, only to be told you are having anxiety attacks and be handed a prescription for a mild tranquilizer. Thankfully, I discovered that a good B6 supplement (Solgar “Magnesium with B6”) was all I needed and threw away the offending prescription, but this serves as an excellent—albeit oversimplified—example as to why we have to focus on improving the health of our intestines.
Before I go on, I do want to say that the products listed below do not benefit me financially in the least. Additionally, these are the products that work best for my body. You may find a different brand works better for you, but as long as our focus is on getting those intestines healthy, we are all heading in the right direction!
So, read on about what I personally consider the top four intestinal healing supplements…
The first and best all-round product I have found that truly aids in restoring the intestinal lining is a glutamine supplement put out by a company called Metagenics. The supplement, called “Glutagenics”, contains glutamine, licorice root, and aloe vera. While studying for my masters in nutrition at Texas A&M University, we learned that glutamine is a key amino acid that aids in restoring the intestinal lining in patients that are transitioning from being tube-fed to a normal diet. So, when my own chiropractor suggested this supplement and mentioned it contained glutamine, I purchased it and have been taking it on and off for three years.
Glutagenics is available online through various websites that carry the Metagenics brand. The supplement is unfortunately a bit cost prohibitive, but you can shop around for other brands that contain a similar blend, or buy the three active ingredients separately. Unfortunately, this did not work for me (I have an expensive gut), but it may for you.
The next product is a good omega-3 fatty acid. Omega-3 fatty acids have so many benefits that even if you weren’t working on building up your intestines, they would still be beneficial. During my graduate research, I was fortunate to be part of an ongoing study on the mechanism whereby omega-3 fatty acids reduce the inflammatory response. Obviously, when our intestines are damaged, there is plenty of inflammation. So, including omega-3 fatty acids in our diet is vital.
Thankfully, omega-3 fatty acids are getting easier and easier to come by. My family eats the high omega-3 brand eggs and the Smart Balance peanut butter and butter spreads. You can also purchase wonderful oil blends by Nordic Naturals. My favorite is the lemon-flavored Omega-3 liquid. The lemon flavor truly masks the fishy taste and even my children swallow the oil with minimal grumbling. Nordic Naturals is quite expensive (around $20.00 for 8 oz) but if you compare the amount of DHA you are getting per serving, it is definitely the most DHA for your dollar!
Another great healing nutrient is zinc. Zinc is wonderful for wound healing- you’ll see it in many topical creams, but it also helps restore the intestines. Metagenics puts out a great supplement and their products are great for sensitive individuals. I find that 10mg works best for me. I don’t take it every day – too much will give you a bad taste in your mouth. Once I get that bad taste, I know I need to go off it for awhile.
Finally (for now), find a great probiotic. The one that everyone recommends, by Garden of Life, contains wheat grass, so we have to avoid it. I do extremely well, however, on a product called Lacidophil by Xymogen. My energy levels actually improve on this brand. Xymogen has their own website where you can purchase products directly. Taking a good probiotic restores a healthy balance to your gut flora, which aids in overall health and digestion. I have just recently ordered one from Emerson Ecologics through a natural doctor and it’s supposed to be even better. It has many more strains of the good bacteria so I’m going to try it as soon as it comes in.
Of the four products listed above, the two that I take daily are the probiotic and omega-3 oil. The other two I take on an ‘as-I-need-it’ basis.
Unfortunately, our bodies don’t tolerate a lot of extra supplements, so go slowly and only add one at a time. Keep track of how you feel. You may never tolerate the mass quantities that some companies will try to sell you. But, since you are your own best manager, work with yourself slowly and patiently and you will find your health improves over time.
May God bless you with the wisdom and discernment you need to live a healthy and vibrant life!
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