According to the statistics reported in the peer reviewed American Journal of Gastroenterology (1), the prevalence of Celiac disease in United States is roughly 0.71%. This means that over three million Americans are currently living with Celiac disease. But what is it?
Celiac disease is a gut condition that causes weight loss, anemia, and gut inflammation. Although the exact cause of Celiac disease is unknown, it is believed that some people are genetically predisposed to the illness.
Why Going Gluten-Free Isn’t The Answer
Gluten and grains aren’t the only problems. Approximately 30% of those with Celiac disease are unable to clear up their symptoms by going on a gluten-free diet. Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology (2) suggests that only 8% have normal guts after starting gluten-free diets.
There are two main theories to explain why the symptoms of Celiac disease persist even after a gluten-free diet has been introduced:
- Most foods (especially the processed and refined ones) are contaminated with small quantities of gluten. These trace amounts of gluten result in persistent gluten exposure and repeated bouts of gut inflammation.
- Foods that are genetically similar to problem foods are able to stimulate the same antibodies as those problem foods. This may lead to sub-acute gut inflammation and leaky gut.
Other possible explanations are:
- Dairy products and casein increase the risk of gut inflammation and may produce symptoms because of genetic or acquired deficiency of lactase (the milk-digesting enzyme).
- Pseudo grains and non-gluten grains activate the antibodies that cause the symptoms of inflammatory bowel conditions.
How Can Paleo Help Manage The Symptoms Of Celiac Disease?
Research explained in BMC Gastroenterology (3) indicates that the non-response to therapy in Celiac disease patients suggests that those patients are not actually following a gluten-free diet (either intentionally or unintentionally).
Investigators suggested that one possible explanation is the cross-contamination of dietary ingredients during the refining and processing of foods. One clinical trial completely eliminated processed and refined food from the diets of Celiac disease patients over a period of three to six months.
82% of patients saw that their symptoms completely cleared up. They didn’t need any further interventions.
Due to scientific and technological advancements, the nutritional quality of our food has suffered. Most of the products that are available to us today are:
- Highly processed and refined with virtually no nutritional value
- Saturated with hormones, chemicals, and other toxins that tend to accumulate in our bodies, increasing our risk of developing autoimmune conditions
- High in simple sugars that disrupt the natural biochemical rhythm and balance of our hormones
- Accompanied by irritants and inflammation-causing elements
Various research and clinical studies suggest that adopting the paleo diet can help tremendously to reduce Celiac disease symptoms. This is because:
- The paleo diet promotes the consumption of organic foods. It lacks the toxins, irritants, and chemicals responsible for gut inflammation. By eliminating toxins from your diet, paleo promotes the healing and recovery of damaged villi and gut tissues.
- The human body is not designed to metabolize grains and legumes. Extensive research and clinical studies have suggested that grains and legumes contain phytates, lectins, and gluten, all of which cause gut inflammation and food allergies. Eliminating these nutrients can definitely help in reducing gluten-sensitivity symptoms.
- Paleo promotes the consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables (which are rich in fiber and antioxidants), as well as healthy sources of omega fats (that help to rejuvenate damaged cells).
- If you have a history of gut inflammatory conditions or autoimmune diseases, your risk of developing other similar problems (such as rheumatoid arthritis and type 2 diabetes) increases. Following the paleo diet may help in preventing these complications and new health issues.
Paleo Recommendations For Celiac Disease Patients
|Product||What to eat||What not to eat|
|Grains||Flour, seeds, buckwheat, sorghum, millet|
|Veggies/fruits||All fresh veggies and fruits||Dried, canned, and frozen veggies and fruits|
|Proteins||Unseasoned shelled nuts, eggs, fresh fish, fresh meats||Hams, bacon, and lunch meats|
|Dairy||Processed cheese, seasoned or flavoured dairy products.|
|Condiments||Salt, honey, vinegar, oils||Malt and flavoured vinegar|
|Beverages||Water and milk|
The human body has not evolved enough to be able to process and metabolize grains, legumes, and genetically modified and highly refined foods. If you repeatedly expose your gut cells to irritants, your risk of developing leaky gut, Celiac disease, and related illnesses will increase. We therefore recommend that you stick to paleo!
- Rubio-Tapia, A., Ludvigsson, J. F., Brantner, T. L., Murray, J. A., & Everhart, J. E. (2012). The prevalence of celiac disease in the United States. The American journal of gastroenterology, 107(10), 1538-1544.
- Hou, J. K., Lee, D., & Lewis, J. (2013). Diet and inflammatory bowel disease: review of patient-targeted recommendations. Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology.
- Hollon, J. R., Cureton, P. A., Martin, M. L., Puppa, E. L. L., & Fasano, A. (2013). Trace gluten contamination may play a role in mucosal and clinical recovery in a subgroup of diet-adherent non-responsive celiac disease patients. BMC gastroenterology, 13(1), 40.
Photo credit: Holly Lay