Individuals with Celiac disease, an autoimmune disorder that impacts their ability to digest the gluten found in foods, are often at risk for a number of nutrient deficiencies. Patients should consult with their doctor and/or a nutritionist to make sure their Celiac disease diet is providing adequate levels of all essential nutrients.
Why Are Celiac Patients Nutrient Deficient?
There are two reasons why those with Celiac disease may have nutrient deficiencies. First, the Mayo Clinic explains that when patients are unaware of their condition and eat gluten, the lining of their small intestine becomes inflamed. This prevents the body from absorbing key nutrients as food is digested.
A proper gluten-free Celiac disease diet will help promote proper intestinal function, but there is still a risk of nutrient deficiency caused by inadequate nutrient intake. Many gluten-free foods are not fortified with vitamins, minerals, fiber and other nutrients, which may contribute to a patient’s deficiency.
The following are a number of common nutrient deficiencies experienced by Celiac patients:
Iron deficiency is common in patients who have recently been diagnosed with Celiac disease. According to the Gluten Intolerance Group, iron is absorbed in the upper part of the intestine, and this is typically where inflammation occurs in the early stages of Celiac disease. When the body does not absorb enough iron, the size and number of red blood cells may decrease, leading to fatigue, weakness, susceptibility to infection and more.
Vitamin B-12 is absorbed in the same part of the intestine as iron, and as such, Celiac patients often become deficient in this important vitamin. B-12 plays a role in the formation and growth of red blood cells, and deficiency can lead to anemia.
Allergic Living explains that 10 to 20 percent of Celiac patients also have some degree of lactose intolerance. As such, calcium deficiency is common among Celiac patients, who often avoid dairy because it upsets their stomachs. Calcium is important for bone health, and deficiency can lead to conditions like osteoporosis or osteopenia.
While many Celiac-related deficiencies are caused by poor nutrient absorption, many patients do not get enough fiber because they don’t eat fiber-rich foods. Fiber is present in many plant-based foods that also contain gluten, so those with Celiac disease must find alternative ways to work fiber into their diets. Without fiber, the body has trouble digesting foods, which can lead to constipation, hemorrhoids or other conditions.