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Managing the Side Effects of a Gluten-Free Diet

Posted Oct 22 2012 4:00am

If you have been dignosed with  celiac disease  you probably know all about the painful and uncomfortable physical and mental symptoms and are glad to be rid of them with a gluten-free diet. However, staying away form gluten doesn't mean that your health and well-being are garanteed. Although, you have taken a major step in preventing serious and potentially fatal complications and long-term potentially fatal comlications of long-term untreated celiac disease. 

Patients who are newly diagnosed with celiac disease often find that they have nutritional deficiencies, and what’s worse,gluten-free productsare often low in B vitamins, calcium, vitamin D, iron, zinc, magnesium, and fiber and aren’t fortified in these nutrients. When Swedish researchers studied adult celiac patients who had beengluten-freefor ten years, they found that half of them had vitamin deficiencies, including low levels of vitamin B-6 or folate, or both, and high levels ofhomocysteine, a risk factor for heart attacks, vascular disease, and strokes. Before the study, all the patients had biopsies to prove their intestines were in healthy condition, so these vitamin deficiencies could not be explained bymalabsorption. Italian researchers have found similar deficiencies in gluten-free adolescents.

 

Weight gain isn’t uncommon when you cutglutenout of your diet. Manyceliac patientsare thin and sickly-looking before their celiac diagnosis, as the damage caused to small intestine prevents the absorption of food. After being on a gluten-free diet for some time, when the intestines have begun to heal, the nutrients and calories in foods get absorbed better. Even though you may not be consuming any more calories now than in your gluten-eating days, it's likely that you're going to gain some weight. In fact, studies have shown an increased risk for obesity for gluten-free dieters. However, some people actually lose weight, as the changes to your diet may cause a decrease in caloric intake. Watching your caloric intake and regular exercise are two ways I recommend for dealing with any weight gain you may experience.

      Other side effects of a gluten-free diet include constipation, gassiness, and diarrhea. When youreplace the bread and pasta in your diet with only processed white rice, you reduce the fiber in your diet, which may cause constipation. On the other hand, adding foods rich in fiber, such as quinoa, in large amounts and too quickly, can cause gassiness and diarrhea.

Adopting a gluten-free diet was initially quite a challenge, but now I’m reaping the benefits of this new way of life. As aceliac advocate, I stay connected to the celiac community and keep abreast of the latest research. This is the first and fundamental step I recommend to celiac patients as they adjust to and manage their gluten-free diet—stay informed. In this way you’ll be sure to find important research information and helpful tips that can help you handle any difficulties you encounter.

Miranda Jade Turbin 

 

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