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Celiac and Obesity - The Truth About Following a Gluten-Free Diet

Celiac.com 03/08/2010 - Celiac, a genetic autoimmune disease, has long been associated with a medical picture of patients that look underweight, and malnourished. However, recent studies are finding that obesity and a high BMI (Body Mass Index) may also be prominent in celiac patients. New studies were conducted to determine BMI changes after initiation of a gluten-free diet, and they offer clues to the importance of eating gluten free after being diagnosed with celiac disease.

Doctors at the Celiac Disease Center of Columbia University studied the BMI of 369 patients proven through biopsy to have celiac disease, spanning from 1981 to 2007. Men and women were evaluated separately for the sake of this study and the test patients were classified as “classical” meaning diarrhea prominent, or “atypical” meaning they had no diarrhea at the time of celiac diagnosis. Atypical patients were further divided into groups of 'anemia present' and 'no anemia present' at time of diagnosis. Body Mass Index was then categorized into four groups based on the criteria of the World Health Organization.

The BMI of all test celiac patients were compared to the general United States population. Using the regression model, the study found that there are obvious predictors for low BMI; patients classified as “classical” celiac, female, and with severe villous atrophy, were all revealed as predictors for low BMI. These findings further exemplify that the most dramatic changes in BMI rates were in underweight females with celiac disease. Celiac females had a considerably lower mean BMI than the general population, thereby indicating an important association between females with celiac disease and low BMI. In fact, celiac females that tested with a normal or low BMI were also found to have higher rates of critical villous atrophy than those with a higher BMI. However, more males with celiac were found to be overweight compared to the general population.

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After initiating a gluten free diet, most BMI changes were shown to be directly associated with an initial baseline appearance of “classical” symptoms. While on a gluten free diet, over 50% of the overweight and obese patients lost weight, and of the group who initially had a low BMI, 42.4% attained a normal weight. Thereby concluding that treatment of a gluten free diet after celiac diagnosis provides advantageous changes in BMI results. Further evidence of the importance in early diagnosis and prompt treatment of celiac disease.

Of course it is critical to note that, all the patients utilized for this study were monitored closely by a care center dedicated to celiac disease, and continually followed by an experienced dietician with expert knowledge of celiac disease. And, while you may not be able to afford the kind of dietician these patients were provided with, it is always very important to be under the care of a doctor or clinic dedicated to treating celiac disease, as well as to be receiving experienced dietary counseling when transitioning to a gluten free diet.

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5 Responses:

 
Karen
Rating: ratingfullratingfullratingfullratingfullratingfull Unrated
said this on
01 Apr 2010 4:15:36 PM PDT
Just got diagnosed. This article could have been written about me. So grateful to have a diagnosis after being sick for so long with a laundry list of auto-immune disorders!

 
ColoradoSue
Rating: ratingfullratingfullratingfullratingfullratingempty Unrated
said this on
03 Apr 2010 11:27:39 PM PDT
Which doesn't explain why the hell I GAINED weight after diagnosis, (both positive blood and biopsy), and continue to fight weight gain to this day. My initial diagnosis was confirmed only after a week of severe pain, diarrhea, and dehydration and the loss of 12pounds in 5 days. Since that time and going on the gluten free diet, I have gained 38 lbs. The only explanation I can offer is that I have other autoimmune disorders which are present but cannot be confirmed due to the lack of truly accurate testing procedures that are in use today. The doctors continue to suggest the possibility of scleroderma, mixed connective tissue disease, or lupis but nothing they can or will put a name to! The only other positive diagnosis is fibromyalgia which apparently is still quite the mystery to most medical professions.
Medications, used to fight continuing symptoms, are the other probable cause of weight gain, i.e., medications used to fight those horrible cramps that suddenly hit because of an accidental gluten contamination. Or in the epidural shots that I need every 3 months due to severe back problems. How about the medical researchers work on that correlation. I'm really resent being told by medical professionals that I need to LOSE THE WEIGHT while not offering help as to how. Hey, I know... I'll just eat a piece of bread!!! That should do the trick don't ya think!!!
Signed - Someone Who is sick and tired of being sick, tired in constant pain and depressed.

 
dea
Rating: ratingfullratingfullratingfullratingfullratingempty Unrated
said this on
29 Sep 2010 8:09:42 AM PDT
I wonder if you also have an (undiagnosed) thyroid disorder, as they seem to run together? A thyroid diagnosis can also be difficult to get if in fact your doctor goes by TSH values only. I have Hashimoto's and am finally on meds (many docs won't treat Hashimoto's) due to hypothyroid *symptoms* and very high antibodies. Some symptoms have went away...EXCEPT the weight gain...which lead me here (and terrible nighttime stomach pain). My niece with a thyroid problem just lost considerable weight going gluten (and dairy) free. You may have more than one issue going on. I wish you the best.

 
azsue
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said this on
20 Nov 2010 8:48:08 AM PDT
ColoradoSue - There are several meds used for fibromyalgia that most patients swear causes uncontrollable weight gain. Lots of docs don't acknowledge that side effect. Possible you may be on one or two of those? May be worth looking into. All our best to you!

 
Jen
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said this on
20 Jun 2012 4:59:16 PM PDT
I agree with Dea... you should get your thyroid checked. I hope you get some answers soon. It's hard living that way.




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JMG got it down pretty much, the painful and gluten effects from eating it should clear up in a month, damage symptoms you might notice some differences as early as 2-4months but most do not noticed major improvements til about 6 months to a year. I have been gluten-free for over 3 years all my villi have healed according to the doctor on my last scope. It is very important to not cheat and avoid any kind of CC as it can set you back weeks or months. I would suggest a whole foods only diet for the first month or two, no dairy, simple stews, soups, etc. make for easy to digest and simple meals. Check out the 101 thread for some good information. PS a new combo crockpot, steamer, rice cooker combo and liners for a crock pot will be a life saver for making simple meals and easy clean ups. Quick cook microwave ware will also be handy making sure you have gluten-free cooked meals if you can not get new cookware immediately. I normally suggest cleaning out the entire house, scrubbing down knobs, handles, on the drawers, sink, fridge, cubbards etc. throw out condiment jars, checking ingredients on everything in the house including your hygiene and makeup. Putting in drawer organizers for new utensils, throwing out scratched glass, teflon, plastic, and steel cookware. Throwing out any Tupperware, and cutting boards, some utensils that can not be cleaned well. Some times you can save cast iron and stainless steel cook ware if you can run it in your ovens cleaning cycle over 600F. Gluten is a protein like blood if you can not clean a item where a CSI team will not find it give it up, it is not a germ that can be killed with disinfectant. I use freezer paper for clean prep surfaces, also makes clean up a breeze, I tend to use gloves alot also when fixing foods,

Hi Allie and welcome First off, I know 3 years was a long wait, but at 17 you've figured out celiac way before many people do. That should make a big impact on minimising its effects and helping you with the diet, so, bizarrely enough, congratulations! A lot of good advice has been brought together in this thread: Don't worry that your symptoms are bad now. As you follow the diet your body will begin healing itself and you're still very young so hopefully this will go really smoothly. Think in terms of the next 6 months rather than weeks however, recovery will likely take a little time. Eat as healthily as you can, lots of whole foods and try to avoid the gluten free processed substitutes as your digestive system needs all the help it can get at this moment. You may want to avoid dairy as well for now and think about reintroducing it later. This site has been really helpful to me and others. I hope you find it just as useful. Best of luck! ps, your increased reaction to gluten during the challenge phase was perfectly normal. Many find that reintroducing it much worse than the initial affects and take some time to get over the challenge. That's why you'll see lots of posts here urging folks to 'stay on gluten' till their testing is complete!

Hi! My daughter is 19 was diagnosed at age 16. It took about 12-18 month s for her to fully heal from the damage and feel "normal" again. Also because of the damage done she had reactions to dairy, so you may want to try no or minimum dairy until youre fully healed. Just a suggestion. Hope you start feeling well soon!

Hi yall! New to this blog, but really glad it exists because I have lots of questions. First off, I'm Allie! I'm 17 and newly diagnosed Celiac after about 3 years of searching for answers. I initially went gluten-free on the recommendation of a friend, I felt better in about a month and then my pediatric gastroenterologist had me do the gluten challenge, and my symptoms were the worst they have ever been, and ones I barely noticed before became very present. I did the biopsy and was diagnosed, it's been about 2 weeks and my symptoms are still pretty bad, although my diet has no known sources of gluten or cross contamination. Wondering if anyone has any input on healing post gluten challenge, any tips or how long it took for you would be quite helpful! Thanks

Might want to look into a keto diet, I have UC on top of celiacs and keto is working great Yeah I have major nerve and brain issues with gluten, gluten ataxia with nerve issues and brain issues. Seems to cause my body to attack my brain and nerve system. My brain stumbles fogs, and starts looping, the confusion causes me to become really irritable, I call it going Mr Hyde. Like my mind will start looping constantly on thoughts and not move driving me literally mad, or it used to. Now days it is primary the numbness anger but the gut issues and sometimes random motor loss limit me motionless to the floor now days for the duration of the major anger effects. Used to be a lot more mental then painful gut. I did a mental trauma post on it on while back where I came out about all my mental issues with gluten.