Some, though not all, persons with celiac may experience a sort of fuzzyness of thinking or “celiac fog.” The lack of concentration can be maddening. Sometimes the person is not even sure it is related to Celiac Disease. The mental symptoms and lack of concentration are due to deficits of the B vitamins. The B vitamins are needed for processes in the body which allow neurological connections to take place. Since Celiac Disease is a disease of malabsorption, a deficiency of B vitamins can occur. This sometimes reduces mental accuity. The good news is that it is easily remedied. A newly diagosed person can immediately begin taking a gluten free vitamin. This does nothing to repair the damage caused by Celiac Disease. However, flooding the gut with a concentration of B vitamins increases the likelihood of it being absorbed by surface area that is still intact. The person may notice rapid improvement provided there is not a lot of damage to the small intestine where the vitamins are absorbed. If there is considerable damage, it may take longer on the gluten free diet for repair and thus, proper absorption to occur.
The small intestine is beautifully designed to maximize absorption of nutrients from the diet. It maximizes absorptive surface in a remarkable way by having the greatest possible surface area in a small space. It is ten feet long and coiled inside the abdomen – lots of surface area. The surface of the small intestine has folds – more surface area. On these folds are small fingerlike projections called villi – still more surface area. The villi are the end of the line. Inside each villus are blood and lymphatic vessels that pick up the nutrients that cross it from the interior of the small intestine. Nutrients, such as vitamins, are absorbed in specific sections of the small intestine. Damage to any one section leads to malabsorption of the nutrient which is absorbed there.
It is very comforting to know that the fog will burn off as healing progresses. Hang in there – and just don’t forget the vitamins!