Managing Celiac Disease

Holistic Healthy Living Blog
By Dr. Rachelle Tetreault DAOM, L,Ac



Celiac disease is a chronic digestive disease which has various symptoms and can be challenging to diagnose. It is often misdiagnosed as irritable bowel syndrome, anemia, or even gastric ulcers. The symptoms not only vary but can occur in both children and adults. It is caused by a hereditary intolerance to gluten. Gluten can be found in wheat, barley, or rye. With celiac disease, when gluten is eaten, it can create an immune response similar to as if it was an antigen therefore creating the body to attack once absorbed into the intestines. The gluten is perceived by the immune system as a dangerous foreign substance therefore triggering an unfavorable immune response. The antibodies created by this response create inflammation and over time can result in internal damage to the intestinal wall. Some of the more common signs can be bloating, chronic diarrhea, nutrient malabsorption, pain, and even weight loss. Other symptoms may include light yellow floating stools, swelling of the abdomen, joint or muscle cramps, even some skin sensitivities. Though there is no cure for the gluten intolerance, the body can be treated with both acupuncture and herbals to allow the immune system to properly regulate and the symptoms to subside.

Eastern medicine places celiac disease in specific categories of diagnosis. These include energy and yin deficiency with damp heat, liver energy attacking spleen, spleen and kidney yang deficiency, spleen and stomach energy deficiency with food stagnation, or simply food stagnation in the stomach. Each of these is comprised of their own set of symptoms and found in observing and assessing the patient. They can also be a combination of one or more. Deficient yin with damp heat diagnosis will yield signs of enduring loose stools, lack of energy, cold extremities, and possible night sweats. Liver stagnation attacking the spleen shows symptoms of recurrent diarrhea preceded by cramping or abdominal pain, pain is relieved by defecation, mucus or blood in the stool, distention and pain on the sides of abdomen or flanks, irritability or depression. Spleen and kidney yang deficiency as the root cause of celiac disease shows different manifestations such as early morning diarrhea (cock-crow diarrhea), cold body and limbs, and much more. Spleen and stomach deficiency with food stagnation may reveal as reduced appetite, difficulty digesting, watery or loose stools along with abdominal and epigastric bloating. Lastly, food stagnation in the stomach is often seen as vomiting after eating, knotted constipation, unformed stools, and the coating on the tongue is often thick and greasy. Also, it is important to realize that any child that is not thriving could have celiac disease. Celiac disease often creates malabsorption of the B vitamins as well as the fat-soluble ones (A,D,E, and K). So these are often needed as supplements.

Despite the actual specific diagnosis of celiac disease, it is still considered a component of what is considered damp heat in the intestines. Certain herbal formulas are utilized to help promote normal digestion and absorption of nutrients. Also, other benefits are to harmonize the liver and spleen, thereby relieving diarrhea and other symptoms such as abdominal pain, nausea, and vomiting. A major benefit for celiac patients is improving their overall spleen energy which relates to improving digestion, harmonizing the bowels, and improving nutrient absorption. Acupuncture can greatly benefit the spleen energy and improve all these areas. Once the spleen is strengthened, overall health is improved. However, if the spleen continues to weaken, other autoimmune disorder can occur. Other diseases associated with celiac disease are systemic lupus erythematosus, thyroid disease, scleroderma, Addison’s disease, Sjogrens’s syndrome, and rheumatoid arthritis to name a few. In Eastern medicine, the spleen is responsible for overall nutrition, food absorption, blood production, energy of the body itself, and the immune system.

The best food therapy for the gluten patient is foremost to avoid any and all foods that contain gluten. Rice, potato, cornmeal and soy flour can replace any wheat, barley or rye. Be careful of any sources of gluten that may be hidden or not be easy to find. These can be hydrolyzed plant protein, or vegetable protein as well as modified food starch. Gluten-free products are everywhere today due to the prevalence of this disease. The best foods are fresh vegetables, rice bran, nuts, and berries. Foods such as legumes (lentils, beans, and peas) are very beneficial. Black strap molasses is high in both B vitamins and iron and is very helpful for celiac patients. If eating oats, make sure they specifically say gluten-free or made in a gluten-free factory. Chewing food thoroughly to improve the nutrient absorption is even more important with this disorder. Vitamin A, B complex, and Vitamin C are also very beneficial due to their antioxidant effects plus protecting the body from inflammatory response secondary to any allergen reaction. Call today to embark on your journey to health and healing! 772-626-6419