Nutrition for Celiac Disease-Related Conditions

Contributors: Sarah Klemm, RDN, CD, LDN
Gluten-Free Food: Gluten-Free Diet for Celiac Disease-Related Conditions

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For individuals with celiac disease following a gluten-free diet can help relieve the variety of symptoms that may interfere with daily life if untreated, like bloating, nausea, migraines, joint pain and gastrointestinal distress. In addition to a gluten-free diet, if you have celiac disease, you may need to make other changes to your eating plan to help prevent or manage the following conditions.

Osteoporosis

A potentially crippling bone disease, osteoporosis is common in individuals with untreated celiac disease. Affected children, adolescents and adults have reduced bone mineral content and bone density, which can improve when following a gluten-free diet. Children and adolescents who are treated early and make changes to their diet can achieve normal bone growth. Adults who begin to follow a gluten-free diet can improve, but may not reach normal bone density. Adequate amounts of calcium and vitamin D are needed, regardless of age. Patients who are newly diagnosed with celiac disease may experience lactose intolerance, which can influence their intake of dairy products. This condition can resolve after following a gluten-free diet, but a calcium and vitamin D supplement may be needed if dietary sources are lacking.

Iron Deficiency Anemia

Anemia is a common condition related to celiac disease. This is due both to the intestinal damage that reduces the body's ability to absorb and use iron from food, and the loss of some iron-fortified foods when starting a gluten-free diet.

Following a gluten-free diet helps the intestines heal, which is important to improve nutrient absorption and blood iron levels. However, recovery from iron deficiency may take longer. A focus on iron-rich foods and an iron supplement may be needed to completely restore blood levels and correct deficiencies.

Pregnancy Risks

Several studies have found that individuals with undiagnosed celiac disease, or those with known celiac disease who were not following a gluten-free diet, had an increased risk of complications during pregnancy including miscarriage, premature delivery and stillbirth. These studies also indicated a higher risk for breech position and the need for Cesarean delivery. Adhering to a gluten-free diet reduces the risk of these complications.

Navigating which foods to eat can be difficult when you have more than one condition to monitor. A registered dietitian nutritionist can provide diet and supplementation guidance for these and other health concerns.

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