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  • Scott Adams
    Scott Adams

    Celiac Disease Alternative Medicine

    Celiac.com 02/12/2007 - Before they are diagnosed, people with celiac disease often find themselves in an unenviable position. They may go out of their way to eat a wholesome, balanced diet including plenty of fruits and vegetables, a good variety of whole-grain foods, and a modest amount of meat and dairy, yet still find themselves suffering a whole range of bothersome stomach and digestive complaints including indigestion, gas, stomach cramps and diarrhea, alternating with constipation.

    Thats because people with celiac disease are intolerant of the protein gluten. Gluten is found in wheat, rye, and barley (oats contain a type of gluten that may be safe for most celiacs), and is found in the soft, white inside of the grain, its what makes dough, and flour and water paste, sticky and gooey.

    When people with celiac disease eat food made from these grains, even in small amounts, their immune systems seem to treat the gluten as foreign invader, and basically create a massive defensive action against what might be, for most people, part of a good healthy diet. The immune reaction that is triggered by gluten causes inflammation of the intestines, which leads to many problems that are associated with malabsorption, and ultimately to the general gastrointestinal malaise associated with undiagnosed celiac disease, or with gluten contamination in otherwise mindful celiac patients on a gluten-free diet.

    Diagnosis and Treatment of Celiac Disease are Important

    Unless celiac is treated, it becomes difficult for the digestive system to absorb enough nutrients from food to carry on proper body functions, and resulting vitamin deficiencies can cause a wide range of symptoms, including a condition known as malabsorption. Weight-loss, listlessness, feeling or looking malnourished, are all signs of the nutritional malabsorption associated with untreated celiac disease.

    Left untreated, celiac disease can become life-threatening. People can waste away. More likely though are higher instances of certain cancers, particularly of the intestines, and other diseases associated with untreated celiac disease. Thats why its advisable for people with any of these symptoms to check with their doctor to ensure a proper diagnosis, and to have follow up wellness checks.

    Even a negative blood test for celiac disease doesnt mean youre fully out of the woods. For a long time, research put the number of celiac patients at around 0.5% of the worlds population, or around 1 in 200 people. Recent studies however, have shown that to be a low estimate, and incidence is more likely around 1% of the population, or 1 in 133 people. Celiac Disease, however, is looking more and more like a very small part of the much larger Gluten sensitive picture.

    More ominous still, new evidence shows Non-Celiac Gluten intolerance to be around 30 times more prevalent than celiac disease, and if could affect up to 15% of people worldwide. 1 in 7 people are gluten-sensitive or gluten-intolerant. These people test negative or inconclusive for Celiac Disease, but suffer most of the same symptoms and long-term problems associated with celiac disease when they ingest wheat. This group of people are sometimes referred to as Non-Celiac Gluten Sensitive.

    Because the symptoms overlap with many other ailments, Gluten intolerance can easily be missed or misdiagnosed; especially in light of negative blood or biopsy tests--and this may lead many to miss out on discovering the simple and drug-free remedy of a Gluten-free diet for a dramatic recovery. If classic screening techniques for celiac disease do not identify the disease in someone who is in the Non-Celiac Gluten Sensitive category, or if the test results are borderline or inconclusive, often the only other approach to discover the problem is via the Elimination Diet.

    Once the cause is understood, and the necessary adjustments are made to the diet, celiac disease and gluten sensitivity are easily treated. A diet free of gluten usually brings both short and long-term improvement. This isnt always quite as easy as it sounds, as so many processed foods contain hidden forms of wheat that are used as binding or flavoring agents.

    Once you become aware of damaging foods and avoid them, a gluten-free diet can restore small intestine function within a few weeks to a few months. Once the mucosa of the intestine is no longer inflamed, most absorption issues will usually subside. The inflammation in the intestine will subside as gluten is eliminated.

    Echinacea and goldenseal may help to speed this process along. These two immune system boosters are often packaged together in capsule form. You may also find Echinacea and goldenseal in combination with slippery elm, marshmallow, geranium, and other herbs. This combination goes by the generic name of Roberts Formula, and is made by a number of manufacturers. Roberts formula treats the digestive tract by creating a beneficial layer of slime that is healing to digestive tissues. Check your local health food store.

    Echinacea and goldenseal are important healers because they have anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties. One cautionary note, however: Dont take these herbs continuously. Generally, two weeks on and two weeks off for a period of up to two months.

    How to Replace Lost Nutrients Caused by Untreated Celiac Disease

    At the very least, most celiacs will benefit from a daily multivitamin/mineral supplement that includes calcium, 1,000 milligrams, along with 400 milligrams of magnesium (note that too much magnesium can cause diarrhea). Lack of vitamin B6 is partly to blame for symptoms of celiac disease, Pyridoxal-5-Phosphate (P-5-P) is often a good choice, as it requires no conversion to make vitamin B6, and can be easier on the stomach.

    Vitamins can also speed healing. Because the absorption of fats is particularly poor in celiacs, many celiac patients commonly suffer deficiencies of vitamins A, C, D, E, and benefit from taking these in supplemental form, along with a chelated form of zinc supplement. As with any supplement, read the directions and keep your doctor fully informed about what you are taking and how much.

    A typical dose, for example, is 1,000 to 2,000 international units (IU) of vitamin A in the form of fish oil (too much can have toxic effects so discuss this with your doctor), 100 to 200 IU of vitamin D also in fish oil, 500 to 1000 milligrams of vitamin C, 100 to 400 IU of vitamin E, and 15 to 30 milligrams of chelated zinc.

    Check with your doctor before taking more than 20 milligrams of zinc. Beta-carotene, 10,000 I.U. daily, can also be helpful, as can Iron, 60 mg. daily, if a blood test indicates iron deficiency.

    In addition to a good multivitamin/mineral for support, and other vitamins, digestive enzymes, which digest gluten, may also be helpful. To improve nutrient absorption and assimilation, these should be supplemented.

    Celiac patients also often suffer a deficiency of vitamin K., which can be supplemented through green foods, especially alfalfa. Green food supplements contain many essential nutrients, including trace minerals. Evening primrose oil is a good source of the omega-6 essential fatty acids that celiac patients often lack.

    Silica soothes inflammations in the gastrointestinal tract. It is available in both capsules and gel form.

    Medicinal clay is excellent in promoting healing of the walls of the colon and protecting it from irritation by toxins and dry, abrasive matter.

    Daily Dosages of Supplements for Celiacs:

    • Green food supplements, 1 tbsp.
    • Evening primrose oil, two 500 mg capsules three times daily
    • Multivitamin supplement, as directed on the label
    • Medicinal clay, dissolve 1 tsp. of clay in ½cup of water at room temperature and drink twice daily.
    • Papain, 500 mg three times daily
    • Pyridoxal-5-Phosphate, 50 mg daily
    • Silica, 3-6 capsules; in the gel form, follow the directions on the label
    • Vitamin B complex, 50 mg twice daily
    • Vitamin B12, 100 mcg
    • Vitamin C, with bioflavonoids, 5,000 mg one to three times daily

    Herbal Remedies in the Treatment of Celiac Disease

    Herbal remedies can help soothe intestinal irritation and inflammation and heal damaged mucous membranes.

    • Roberts Formula
    • Take 4 drops of agrimony tincture in water, three times daily.
    • Sufficient silica in the intestines will reduce inflammation, and strengthen and rebuild connective tissue. Take 3 cups of silica-rich horsetail tea or 15 drops of tincture in liquid three times daily.
    • A combination of burdock, slippery elm, sheep sorrel and Turkish rhubarb tea helps different types of inflammations in the gastrointestinal tract.
    • Use dandelion, saffron and yellow dock herbal teas to that purify and nourish the blood.
    • Pickled ginger can be eaten for anti-inflammation properties.

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    Recommended Comments



    Some notes on the herbs and supplements from someone who has studied and used 'alternatives' for the last 15y:

     

    The part of the above 'Roberts Formula' that helps recovery is the Slippery Elm and Marshmallow, which are used to sooth inflamed tissues; commonly in sore throat preparations. Licorice is another good one, but not if you have high blood pressure, and only take it for a short time. Another good gut soother is enteric coated peppermint.

     

    However Echinacea is a T-cell 'booster' and contraindicated for anyone with an auto-immune disorder. Celiacs, therefore should steer clear of it. Goldenseal is an all around anti viral/bacterial/parasitic and is hard on your liver, which is why you should not take it for very long, however still a very useful cold remedy. Like any other anti-bacterial, you should follow your treatment with a beneficial bacterial preparation. You can do this with either a pill, or a good quality yogurt or kefir. Read the labels; the more species listed the better, and of course avoid the Modified Food Starch. For Americans, LifeWay kefir or Horizon yogurt are good choices. These good bacteria are also helpful to form that healing 'slime' spoken of. If you have been experiencing any kind of bowel troubles, whether it is '24 hour stomach flu' or celiac-sprue, those bacteria have been depleted from that condidion. Also maintaining a healthy colony of beneficial bacteria in your gut acts as a barrier for any harmful organisms to take hold, including candida (Yeast infection). A daily dose of your favorite fruit flavored Kefir will do the body; especially the celiac one; a lot of good. If you are lactose intolerant, you should still be able to take this; the bacteria will happily oblige you in digesting all the lactose.

     

    The purpose of the medicinal clay is to absorb toxins, but it doesn't discriminate against vitamins, so if you use the clay, use it for a week or so at a time, and do not supplement, otherwise you are wasting your money.

     

    Also if you intend on taking the 5000 mg of Vit C, work up to it slowly, 500mg/day increase each day from either a starting amount of 500mg, or whatever you currently take. Large doses can be a shock and may give you diarrhea. Everone has a different tolerance for this, but if you don't know yours, it won't hurt to take it slow.

     

    Vit A is indeed the most toxic of the vitamins, but the average person can safely take 5000 IU of activated A (retinyl palmitate) per day. A therapeutic dose is more like 10,000 to 20,000 IU /day UNLESS YOU ARE PREGNANT OR AT RISK OF PREGNANCY then stick to the 5,000 max. Beta Carotene is the un-activated version of Vit. A. There is no upper dose of that, and can be found in great abundance in any colored vegetable/fruit, so don't waste your money on a pill; just go to the produce dept. You store Beta Carotene in your skin, and the liver retreives it and turns it into active Vit A 'as needed'. Part of the reason why Vit A is toxic, is that it is fat soluable so your body stores it instead of passing it like it will water-soluable B vitamins. That means to be safe, you should not engage in a therapeutic dose past the time you need the therapy.

     

    Vit E is used in building the cell walls of every cell in the body, and is our most basic defense against 'free radicals'. 400 IU/day is the dose recommended for a healthy adult. For healing and tissue repair, you can easily double that. Although fat soluable, there is no known upper limit for toxicity; just tolerance, so if your waste becomes oily, back off a little, or break it up into smaller more frequent doses.

     

    Celiacs are notoriously Magnesium deficient, so I would say more than the 400mg is recommended. Yes, too much AT ONCE can cause diarrhea, so avoid liquid preparations (which taste hideous anyway). Go with a chelated preparation. Almost all Calcium pills will have Magnesium as well in a roughly 2:1 ratio, as well as 200 IU Vit D. The problem with this for celiacs is that calcium and magnesium compete for the same ion channels in the cell. So, take additional magnesium (chelation increases the number of absorption pathways available to a nutrient). 200-400 mg 1/day. You can even split this up so that you take the Calcium supplement in the am, and the magnesium in the pm; it might just help you sleep too.

     

    You don't really need much more D if at all from the above; the liver makes it in storage form and you store it in the skin. Sunlight activates it, so 20 min/day of just arms & face exposure is adequate. So if you are very sick, calcium deficient and it is winter in a cold climate, Vit D supplementation above that 200 may be needed, but not much. Darker skinned folks are at a bigger risk of needing D than caucasions.

    Any source of EFAs is good. Flax oil is probably the best generic one, and easily available. You can also by flax meal, and add to your home gluten-free baked goods.

     

    All your vitamin pills should be in a capsule form. This is the powder encased in a clear capsule. Liqui-gels are even better if you can find them. Avoid tablets; they are hardest to digest, and if you are a celiac, you might as well eat your money! Also avoid liquids (drinkable preps); they are highly absorbable, but if you gut is 'handicapped' it won't be able to react fast enough to utilize them. Also all vitamins should be taken with food; even if it is just a swig of milk, for best utilization. The papain however should be taken on an empty stomach unless you want it to help you digest your food.

     

    Also don't waste your money on any 'dry' or 'water soluble' A, D or E vitamins. The logic of chemistry is that if they are made this way, they are no longer the vitamin you need. The plain old oil caps are the best and cheapest.

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    I've been diagnosed celiac for a year now. It's been a rough road. Figuring out what else my body needs balancing the damage that had occurred. But I am wondering if you have celiac, if it can develop, or if your born with it, and how will it affect my future children? Should I just have them avoid it too?

    This was very helpful and GREATLY appreciated. Bless you.

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    Why it's good in fairness. Wish there was a cure for coeliac disease though. I t can get depressing as well as annoying when you're out or in school and you cant eat anything because it contains gluten or might contain gluten. I'm 17 and I have to deal with this. Unfair.

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    This is extremely useful information to one who is confused and lost about what to do when suffering with this condition.

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    Some notes on the herbs and supplements from someone who has studied and used 'alternatives' for the last 15y:

     

    The part of the above 'Roberts Formula' that helps recovery is the Slippery Elm and Marshmallow, which are used to sooth inflamed tissues; commonly in sore throat preparations. Licorice is another good one, but not if you have high blood pressure, and only take it for a short time. Another good gut soother is enteric coated peppermint.

     

    However Echinacea is a T-cell 'booster' and contraindicated for anyone with an auto-immune disorder. Celiacs, therefore should steer clear of it. Goldenseal is an all around anti viral/bacterial/parasitic and is hard on your liver, which is why you should not take it for very long, however still a very useful cold remedy. Like any other anti-bacterial, you should follow your treatment with a beneficial bacterial preparation. You can do this with either a pill, or a good quality yogurt or kefir. Read the labels; the more species listed the better, and of course avoid the Modified Food Starch. For Americans, LifeWay kefir or Horizon yogurt are good choices. These good bacteria are also helpful to form that healing 'slime' spoken of. If you have been experiencing any kind of bowel troubles, whether it is '24 hour stomach flu' or celiac-sprue, those bacteria have been depleted from that condidion. Also maintaining a healthy colony of beneficial bacteria in your gut acts as a barrier for any harmful organisms to take hold, including candida (Yeast infection). A daily dose of your favorite fruit flavored Kefir will do the body; especially the celiac one; a lot of good. If you are lactose intolerant, you should still be able to take this; the bacteria will happily oblige you in digesting all the lactose.

     

    The purpose of the medicinal clay is to absorb toxins, but it doesn't discriminate against vitamins, so if you use the clay, use it for a week or so at a time, and do not supplement, otherwise you are wasting your money.

     

    Also if you intend on taking the 5000 mg of Vit C, work up to it slowly, 500mg/day increase each day from either a starting amount of 500mg, or whatever you currently take. Large doses can be a shock and may give you diarrhea. Everone has a different tolerance for this, but if you don't know yours, it won't hurt to take it slow.

     

    Vit A is indeed the most toxic of the vitamins, but the average person can safely take 5000 IU of activated A (retinyl palmitate) per day. A therapeutic dose is more like 10,000 to 20,000 IU /day UNLESS YOU ARE PREGNANT OR AT RISK OF PREGNANCY then stick to the 5,000 max. Beta Carotene is the un-activated version of Vit. A. There is no upper dose of that, and can be found in great abundance in any colored vegetable/fruit, so don't waste your money on a pill; just go to the produce dept. You store Beta Carotene in your skin, and the liver retreives it and turns it into active Vit A 'as needed'. Part of the reason why Vit A is toxic, is that it is fat soluable so your body stores it instead of passing it like it will water-soluable B vitamins. That means to be safe, you should not engage in a therapeutic dose past the time you need the therapy.

     

    Vit E is used in building the cell walls of every cell in the body, and is our most basic defense against 'free radicals'. 400 IU/day is the dose recommended for a healthy adult. For healing and tissue repair, you can easily double that. Although fat soluable, there is no known upper limit for toxicity; just tolerance, so if your waste becomes oily, back off a little, or break it up into smaller more frequent doses.

     

    Celiacs are notoriously Magnesium deficient, so I would say more than the 400mg is recommended. Yes, too much AT ONCE can cause diarrhea, so avoid liquid preparations (which taste hideous anyway). Go with a chelated preparation. Almost all Calcium pills will have Magnesium as well in a roughly 2:1 ratio, as well as 200 IU Vit D. The problem with this for celiacs is that calcium and magnesium compete for the same ion channels in the cell. So, take additional magnesium (chelation increases the number of absorption pathways available to a nutrient). 200-400 mg 1/day. You can even split this up so that you take the Calcium supplement in the am, and the magnesium in the pm; it might just help you sleep too.

     

    You don't really need much more D if at all from the above; the liver makes it in storage form and you store it in the skin. Sunlight activates it, so 20 min/day of just arms & face exposure is adequate. So if you are very sick, calcium deficient and it is winter in a cold climate, Vit D supplementation above that 200 may be needed, but not much. Darker skinned folks are at a bigger risk of needing D than caucasions.

    Any source of EFAs is good. Flax oil is probably the best generic one, and easily available. You can also by flax meal, and add to your home gluten-free baked goods.

     

    All your vitamin pills should be in a capsule form. This is the powder encased in a clear capsule. Liqui-gels are even better if you can find them. Avoid tablets; they are hardest to digest, and if you are a celiac, you might as well eat your money! Also avoid liquids (drinkable preps); they are highly absorbable, but if you gut is 'handicapped' it won't be able to react fast enough to utilize them. Also all vitamins should be taken with food; even if it is just a swig of milk, for best utilization. The papain however should be taken on an empty stomach unless you want it to help you digest your food.

     

    Also don't waste your money on any 'dry' or 'water soluble' A, D or E vitamins. The logic of chemistry is that if they are made this way, they are no longer the vitamin you need. The plain old oil caps are the best and cheapest.

    Great Info Thank you.

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    Some notes on the herbs and supplements from someone who has studied and used 'alternatives' for the last 15y:

     

    The part of the above 'Roberts Formula' that helps recovery is the Slippery Elm and Marshmallow, which are used to sooth inflamed tissues; commonly in sore throat preparations. Licorice is another good one, but not if you have high blood pressure, and only take it for a short time. Another good gut soother is enteric coated peppermint.

     

    However Echinacea is a T-cell 'booster' and contraindicated for anyone with an auto-immune disorder. Celiacs, therefore should steer clear of it. Goldenseal is an all around anti viral/bacterial/parasitic and is hard on your liver, which is why you should not take it for very long, however still a very useful cold remedy. Like any other anti-bacterial, you should follow your treatment with a beneficial bacterial preparation. You can do this with either a pill, or a good quality yogurt or kefir. Read the labels; the more species listed the better, and of course avoid the Modified Food Starch. For Americans, LifeWay kefir or Horizon yogurt are good choices. These good bacteria are also helpful to form that healing 'slime' spoken of. If you have been experiencing any kind of bowel troubles, whether it is '24 hour stomach flu' or celiac-sprue, those bacteria have been depleted from that condidion. Also maintaining a healthy colony of beneficial bacteria in your gut acts as a barrier for any harmful organisms to take hold, including candida (Yeast infection). A daily dose of your favorite fruit flavored Kefir will do the body; especially the celiac one; a lot of good. If you are lactose intolerant, you should still be able to take this; the bacteria will happily oblige you in digesting all the lactose.

     

    The purpose of the medicinal clay is to absorb toxins, but it doesn't discriminate against vitamins, so if you use the clay, use it for a week or so at a time, and do not supplement, otherwise you are wasting your money.

     

    Also if you intend on taking the 5000 mg of Vit C, work up to it slowly, 500mg/day increase each day from either a starting amount of 500mg, or whatever you currently take. Large doses can be a shock and may give you diarrhea. Everone has a different tolerance for this, but if you don't know yours, it won't hurt to take it slow.

     

    Vit A is indeed the most toxic of the vitamins, but the average person can safely take 5000 IU of activated A (retinyl palmitate) per day. A therapeutic dose is more like 10,000 to 20,000 IU /day UNLESS YOU ARE PREGNANT OR AT RISK OF PREGNANCY then stick to the 5,000 max. Beta Carotene is the un-activated version of Vit. A. There is no upper dose of that, and can be found in great abundance in any colored vegetable/fruit, so don't waste your money on a pill; just go to the produce dept. You store Beta Carotene in your skin, and the liver retreives it and turns it into active Vit A 'as needed'. Part of the reason why Vit A is toxic, is that it is fat soluable so your body stores it instead of passing it like it will water-soluable B vitamins. That means to be safe, you should not engage in a therapeutic dose past the time you need the therapy.

     

    Vit E is used in building the cell walls of every cell in the body, and is our most basic defense against 'free radicals'. 400 IU/day is the dose recommended for a healthy adult. For healing and tissue repair, you can easily double that. Although fat soluable, there is no known upper limit for toxicity; just tolerance, so if your waste becomes oily, back off a little, or break it up into smaller more frequent doses.

     

    Celiacs are notoriously Magnesium deficient, so I would say more than the 400mg is recommended. Yes, too much AT ONCE can cause diarrhea, so avoid liquid preparations (which taste hideous anyway). Go with a chelated preparation. Almost all Calcium pills will have Magnesium as well in a roughly 2:1 ratio, as well as 200 IU Vit D. The problem with this for celiacs is that calcium and magnesium compete for the same ion channels in the cell. So, take additional magnesium (chelation increases the number of absorption pathways available to a nutrient). 200-400 mg 1/day. You can even split this up so that you take the Calcium supplement in the am, and the magnesium in the pm; it might just help you sleep too.

     

    You don't really need much more D if at all from the above; the liver makes it in storage form and you store it in the skin. Sunlight activates it, so 20 min/day of just arms & face exposure is adequate. So if you are very sick, calcium deficient and it is winter in a cold climate, Vit D supplementation above that 200 may be needed, but not much. Darker skinned folks are at a bigger risk of needing D than caucasions.

    Any source of EFAs is good. Flax oil is probably the best generic one, and easily available. You can also by flax meal, and add to your home gluten-free baked goods.

     

    All your vitamin pills should be in a capsule form. This is the powder encased in a clear capsule. Liqui-gels are even better if you can find them. Avoid tablets; they are hardest to digest, and if you are a celiac, you might as well eat your money! Also avoid liquids (drinkable preps); they are highly absorbable, but if you gut is 'handicapped' it won't be able to react fast enough to utilize them. Also all vitamins should be taken with food; even if it is just a swig of milk, for best utilization. The papain however should be taken on an empty stomach unless you want it to help you digest your food.

     

    Also don't waste your money on any 'dry' or 'water soluble' A, D or E vitamins. The logic of chemistry is that if they are made this way, they are no longer the vitamin you need. The plain old oil caps are the best and cheapest.

    Leigh, some comments regarding your advice on the supplements recommended for celiacs.

    Echinacea has dramatically reduced the incidences of flu and colds my celiac daughter experiences. She was sick every 2nd week and now never sick with flu or cold, echinacea is well tolerated by her, as a daily supplement during flu season.

    Vitamin D is essential for anyone not living near the equator per Dr. Vieth of the University of Toronto, he has studied vitamin D for 30 years.

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  • About Me

    In 1994 I was diagnosed with celiac disease, which led me to create Celiac.com in 1995. I created this site for a single purpose: To help as many people as possible with celiac disease get diagnosed so they can begin to live happy, healthy gluten-free lives. Celiac.com was the first site on the Internet dedicated solely to celiac disease. In 1998 I founded The Gluten-Free Mall, Your Special Diet Superstore!, and I am the co-author of the book Cereal Killers, and founder and publisher of Journal of Gluten Sensitivity.

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