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Life in the Trenches—Recovering from Celiac Disease

I would hate to add up all the hundreds of dollars I have wasted trying to get healthy.  Now, however, I get healthy by focusing on one thing:  making my intestines healthy.  If my intestines are healthy, I can absorb food.  If I can absorb food, my body will be receiving the nutrition it needs to function, and thus I will be healthy.

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 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.  

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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! welcomes your comments below (registration is NOT required).

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12 Responses:

Helen Hanson
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said this on
04 May 2009 11:57:40 AM PST
Enjoyed your article and agree with needing to repair the intestines...after colonoscopy and an endoscopy...having been clear of gluten for over 6 months, my doctor said I wasn't gluten intolerant....that I had lymphatic colitis! (I wasn't going to eat gluten again just to prove him wrong! I used Nature's Sunshine's Intestinal Soothe & Build, Food Enzymes and Protease H P and Anti-Gas Formula. I also take Omega 3 along with B-vitamins which seem to be helping heart arrhythmia and my frame of mind.

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said this on
19 Dec 2010 10:59:47 AM PST
Thanks. I have the anti-gas formula and am debating on whether to try it.

reneé heising
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said this on
07 Jul 2009 10:03:20 PM PST
Very helpful and informative! Thanks for taking the time to put this info into an article!

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said this on
20 Jul 2009 6:23:58 PM PST
Good information for the most part, but individuals might want to check whether or not they can have the wheat grass, according to most sources, it does not contain gluten.

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said this on
13 Oct 2009 8:19:56 AM PST
Thanks for the info on wheat grass - like most of us, I see "wheat" and I put the product back on the shelf. I appreciate the correction.

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said this on
19 Feb 2015 6:39:29 PM PST
yes I agree, even the official celiac website in Australia says wheat grass as a juice is fine, the only problem being in the powdered form there may be additives which can contain gluten.

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said this on
21 Jul 2009 1:40:05 PM PST
Thanks for the great advice!

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said this on
04 Nov 2009 8:36:34 AM PST
Very helpful and it makes sense to focus on healing the poor little small intestine after the damage it suffers when gluten is ingested. I had heard of glutamine and did not know about the healing properties for the small intestine. I will definitely look into this further. I feel wheat grass that is freshly juiced is fine for me. I did my research and felt that it would be safe and tried it for 6 days with a friend who owns a juicer. I felt no ill effects and I am one of the people who does experience symptoms when gluten is unfortunately ingested.

johnty Hickman
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said this on
10 Aug 2011 9:52:29 PM PST
I agree with the posts above about wheat grass. I am extremely gluten intolerant, yet I consume wheat grass with out a reaction. I was told below 4" of growth there is no gluten.

Alicia khuong
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said this on
25 Dec 2011 5:14:30 PM PST
I found the article interesting and a first stepping stone to more information about diet.

C Brown
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said this on
12 Jan 2012 4:48:48 PM PST
This was an ok article... I was diagnosed with celiac a few months ago, even though I've probably had this for years! I was just ignore the signs and symptoms. I really didn't get much from this article with all the research I've been doing, I don't think she really gave the best information. Does anyone reading this know why you can't tolerate gluten? NOT BECAUSE YOUR ALLERGIC. It's because bacteria/microbes take over your intestinal flora causing hydrogen, a few different kinds of acids, mucus, and eliminating enzymes! One specifically is lactase! It's the first to go, in celiac and the last to be regained after the intestinal disease has subsided. How do you get it to subside you are wondering? Diet! It's called the Specific Carbohydrate Diet! look it up! Read reviews! It can be cured if your patient and disciplined... might take a year but you'll get your life back to normal.

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said this on
21 Aug 2012 6:36:03 AM PST
I've done the specific carbohydrate diet, and it really does help. However, as a celiac I have an autoimmune reaction to gluten, which will not go away no matter what I do. Remission, sure. But specific carbohydrate diet won't suddenly make you not celiac anymore.

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