Celiac disease versus Non Celiac gluten sensitivity
Gluten sensitivity, celiac disease, going gluten-free – all these are part of a hot topic these days. Some people wonder if it’s actually necessary or if it’s just a bunch of hype. The answer is that, for many people, going gluten-free is absolutely essential to their health. Experts estimate that celiac disease has increased by 7.5% every year over the last several decades. It now affects over 2 million Americans. Non-Celiac Gluten Sensitivity (NCGS) is estimated to affect up to 6% of the U.S. population, roughly 19 million people!
Celiac Disease and NCGS – What’s The Difference?
Understanding the difference between celiac disease and NCGS (Non-Celiac Gluten Sensitivity) can be confusing. Celiac disease is characterized by the production of a specific antibody, anti-tTG, which attacks and destroys the lining of the intestines. This damage leads to malabsorption and deficiencies in nutrients like:
- Vitamins D, E, and K
This lack of nutrients sets people with celiac disease up for anemia, osteoporosis, weight loss, skin issues, migraines, fatigue, depression, anxiety, and more. It places them at a higher risk of developing other autoimmune diseases and certain cancers.
What are the differences?
In Non-Celiac Gluten Sensitivity, the antibodies specific to celiac disease are not present, but people suffer from a variety of symptoms like:
- Irregular bowel function
- Abdominal pain or bloating
- Joint pain
- Skin problems
A diagnosis of NCGS is made when celiac and other bowel diseases are ruled out. If the patient removes gluten, then has a reaction upon reintroduction, Non-Celiac Gluten Sensitivity is usually the diagnosis. While NCGS doesn’t destroy the lining of the intestines in the same way as celiac, it does cause widespread inflammation in the body. It is strongly linked to the development of Hashimoto’s, psoriasis, rheumatologic diseases, and autoimmune conditions.
The Functional Approach
Going gluten-free is the most obvious first step in addressing celiac disease and NCGS. However, that is not enough for many people. Other issues may need to be addressed, including:
- Nutrient deficiencies
- Additional food sensitivities
- Cross-reactivity to foods and airborne allergens
- Exposure to mold or other toxins
- Imbalanced microbes in the gut
- Pancreatic insufficiency
- Lack of digestive enzymes
Functional medicine practitioners will look at all of a person’s symptoms and do the appropriate testing to discover the root causes. They will also take a detailed look at what the patient is eating, what toxins they may be exposed to, and what their lifestyle and stress levels look like. They are then able to create a customized plan to address each person’s underlying factors.
Steps You Can Take
There are several steps you can take to reverse the symptoms of celiac disease and NCGS.
- Go 100% gluten-free – Gluten hides in some sneaky places. It can even show up in personal care products and foods labeled gluten-free! Be sure to educate yourself on all of the places gluten can show up and be aware of cross-contamination.
- Opt for whole, nutrient-dense foods – Just because something is labeled gluten-free doesn’t mean it’s nutritious. Many gluten-free foods are highly processed and devoid of nourishment. Focus on leafy greens, colorful vegetables, healthy fats, and clean protein from whole food sources instead.
- Rebalance your microbiome – Most people with celiac or NCGS have some level of gut dysbiosis. Functional medicine doctors can select specific pre-and probiotics to help restore balance to your microbiome. Eating fermented foods is another great way to support a diverse, healthy population of microbes in your gut.
- Replace nutrients and maximize absorption – Replacing depleted nutrients can make a world of difference in the way you feel. Nutrients that people with celiac or NCGS often need include:
- Vitamin D
- Remove toxins and irritants – It is vital for people with celiac or NCGS to reduce their toxic load. The less stress there is on the body, the more quickly it heals. Make sure to drink pure, filtered water. Use cleaning and personal care products free from scents, dyes, and toxic ingredients.
- Release stress – Feeling stressed can cause symptoms to flare up. Deep breathing, adequate downtime, and plenty of quality sleep can help keep stress levels in check.
Do you suffer from the symptoms or side effects of celiac disease or NCGS? Dr. Sisu can help you rebalance and restore your gut! Call today to schedule an appointment!