Celiac Disease Explained

At times, we’ve all encountered fatigue, bone or joint pain, anxiety and/or abdominal bloating and it’s common for us to go to the doctor if these symptoms persist or worsen. There may be temporary measures prescribed to lessen or stop your symptoms but if they become chronic, it may be time to start looking a little deeper and a little more closely at the bigger picture.

There are many more symptoms associated with celiac disease and, because it can mimic a whole host of other conditions, it can be difficult to diagnose. The great news is that once you have a definite diagnosis and a plan in place, symptoms will lessen, your body will heal, and you can go on to lead a healthy, active life.

Avoiding gluten is one of two main areas to be concerned with when diagnosed with celiac disease. The other is ensuring your body gets the nutrition it needs while it regenerates itself. This can be challenging when addressing the issue solely from a dietary standpoint. With celiac disease, the ability of the body to absorb fat, calcium, magnesium, fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K, folate, iron and vitamin B12 can be difficult. Since vitamin K is necessary for blood to clot, you can see why supplements can become a crucial part of your plan to stay healthy when living with celiac disease.

This month’s article will address what celiac disease is and many of the ways to successfully live a healthy and active lifestyle once diagnosed with it, so read on!


Celiac disease is a digestive disease that damages the small intestine and interferes with absorption of nutrients from food. People who have celiac disease cannot tolerate gluten, a protein in wheat, rye, and barley. Gluten is found mainly in foods but may also be found in everyday products such as medicines, vitamins, and lip balms.

When people with celiac disease eat foods or use products containing gluten, their immune system responds by damaging or destroying villi—the tiny, fingerlike protrusions lining the small intestine. Villi normally allow nutrients from food to be absorbed through the walls of the small intestine into the bloodstream. Without healthy villi, a person becomes malnourished, no matter how much food one eats.

Celiac disease is both a disease of malabsorption—meaning nutrients are not absorbed properly—and an abnormal immune reaction to gluten (autoimmune disease). Celiac disease is also known as celiac sprue, nontropical sprue, and gluten-sensitive enteropathy. Celiac disease is genetic, meaning it runs in families. Sometimes the disease is triggered—or becomes active for the first time—after surgery, pregnancy, childbirth, viral infection, or severe emotionalstress.

Recognizing celiac disease can be difficult because some of its symptoms are similar to those of other diseases. Celiac disease can be confused with irritable bowel syndrome, iron-deficiency anemia caused by menstrual blood loss, inflammatory bowel disease, diverticulitis, intestinal infections, and chronic fatigue syndrome. As a result, celiac disease has long been underdiagnosed or misdiagnosed. As doctors become more aware of the many varied symptoms of the disease, and reliable blood tests become more available, diagnosis rates are increasing. 1


Food entering the small intestine from the stomach is only partially digested. Here the process of chemical food digestion is accelerated as the food now takes a rather wild 3 to 6 hour journey through the looping coils and twists of the small intestine. By the time the food reaches the end of the small intestine, digestion is complete and nearly all food absorption has occurred. All that remains is some water, indigestible food materials and large amounts of bacteria.

Absorption of water and of the end products of digestion occurs all along the length of the small intestine.2

Some of the most important structures in your small intestine that aid in absorption of nutrients are the villi and microvilli.

Intestinal villi (singular: villus) are tiny, finger-like projections that come out from the wall of the small intestine and have additional extensions called microvilli (singular: microvillus). They increase the absorptive area and the surface area ofthe intestinal wall. Digested nutrients (including sugars and amino acids) pass into the villi through diffusion. Circulating blood then carries these nutrients away. In all humans, the villi and microvilli together increase intestinal absorptivesurface area 30-fold and 600-fold, respectively, providing exceptionally efficient absorption of nutrients. This increases the surface area so there are more places for food to be absorbed. 3


Gluten is a combination of two proteins; gliadin and glutenin. These two proteins coexist, along with starch, in the endosperms (the source of starch in seeds – wheat endosperm is ground into flour for bread) of some grass-related grains, notably wheat, rye, barley and oats. Occasionally, proteins in corn and rice are referred to as gluten, however, the important difference is that proteins in corn and rice lack glutenin.


Simply put, malabsorption is either a difficulty, or an inability, to absorb nutrients from the food you eat.

Malnutrition is a condition that arises in the body from its inability to absorb the nutrients in your food. Malnutrition can bring about other vitamin or mineral deficiency symptoms and conditions such as anemia, chronic fatigue and tinnitus(ringing in your ears).


The tried and true method for treating celiac disease is a gluten-free diet. Working with medical professionals, people diagnosed with celiac disease create nutrition plans they can live with and learn how to look for hidden glutens in the foods they buy and in the foods prepared in a restaurant. Today, there is a full range of information available about the disease and how to live well with it, including cook books and recipes that can help take the edge off getting used toliving gluten free.

The good news is that the villi in your small intestine can regenerate themselves and will again begin to absorb nutrients. Commonly, symptoms stop very quickly after eliminating gluten from your diet as your small intestine begins to heal. In children, the small intestine can heal in 3 to 6 months. It usually takes longer in an adult; 12 months or more. If symptoms persist, it is likely because small amounts of gluten are still sneaking into your diet from hidden sources (and sometimes not so hidden!).


Living a gluten-free lifestyle, on a gluten free diet, can have its challenges. In order to successfully follow a gluten free diet, it is essential to have a good understanding of which foods and ingredients contain gluten. Unfortunately, there is considerable misinformation published about what constitutes a gluten-free diet. As a result many individuals are often confused and needlessly avoid certain foods and ingredients, thus limiting the variety in their diet which can lead to nutritional imbalances.

Foods Allowed (gluten-free substitutions)

Substitutions for wheat flour include cornstarch, potato starch or flour, white rice flour, arrowroot starch, quick-cooking tapioca, tapioca starch, uncooked rice.

Nutter’s has a great selection of wheat substitution products for you to choose from that include the majority of the options given above. We also maintain a wide variety of quality vitamins, minerals, and a complete gluten-free section full to the brim with brands and products that will help you sustain and enjoy a gluten-free lifestyle.

Foods To Avoid

Barley, bulgar, cereal binding, couscous, durum, einkorn, emmer, filler, farro, graham flour, kamut, malt and malt extract, malt flavoring, malt syrup, oats*, oat bran, oat syrup, rye, semolina, spelt, triticale, wheat, wheat bran, wheat germ, wheat starch.

*The jury is still out on this one.


The Canadian Celiac Association’s website contains a long list of foods that you can safely incorporate into your gluten-free lifestyle. Listed below are just three examples of what you can eat and why.

Wild Rice
Wild Rice is botanically closely related to ordinary white rice. It would be expected therefore, that it would not contain gluten. Although it has not been clinically tested there seems to be no reason to avoid it.

Flax Seed
Flax seed is the seed of the flax plant of the family Linaceae. Gluten has never been found in seeds, therefore flaxseed may be used by Celiacs.

Quinoa (pronounced keen-wa) has been grown and used as food for centuries by inhabitants of the Andes region of South America. Botanically quinoa is not a cereal but the fruit of the plant Chenopodium quinoa which resembles lamb’s quarters and pigweed. It is a member of the goose-foot family Chenopodiaceae, so called because of the shape of the leaf. There is no data to indicate that gluten occurs in plants of this family. There is therefore, no basis for concern about the use of quinoa by persons with celiac disease. An undocumented report indicates that quinoa has been given over a period of several months to a number of persons with Celiac disease with no “untoward” effects. 4


Reuteri uniquely contains the “AGGH” protein that encourages colonization in the digestive tract. In clinical use, reuteri supplements effectively colonize in over 90% of patients. Ensures 5 billion colony-forming units per capsule for the entire shelf life. Enteric-coating ensures stomach acid survival and intestinal delivery.

Carol Roy is a Natural Health Practitioner who received her diploma from the Alternative Medicine College of Canada in Montreal, Quebec. With 12 years experience in her area of expertise, natural health and wellness, Carol has also trained to become a fully qualified Reiki Master, Quantum Touch Practitioner, and Reflexologist.

The suggestions by Nutter’s Bulk & Natural Foods and the contents of this article
are recommendations only and not a substitute for any medical advice or a
replacement for any prescriptions. Seek medical advice for any health concerns.
Consult your health care provider before using any recommendations herein.


U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

Seventh Edition, Elaine N. Marieb

3. WIKIPEDIA, search: intestinal villus

4. Canadian Celiac Association website

Share This