Celiac disease is an autoimmune condition that impacts the small intestine and prevents the proper absorption of nutrients. Unfortunately, the digestive problems that result from celiac disease can lead to a number of nutrient deficiencies.
Read on to explore the link between celiac disease and nutrient deficiencies, including common deficiencies, the impact on overall health, and ways to manage and prevent deficiencies through diet and supplementation.
What is Celiac Disease?
Celiac disease is an autoimmune, genetic condition that affects the small intestine and the body’s ability to absorb nutrients from food. When someone with celiac disease symptoms ingests gluten, a protein found in wheat, rye, and barley, the immune system attacks the small intestine, causing damage to the villi. These small finger-like projections help absorb nutrients.
Notably, this can result in a wide range of digestive problems, including diarrhea, bloating, abdominal pain, and malnutrition.
Common Nutrient Deficiencies in Celiac Disease
There are several nutrient deficiencies that are common in people with celiac disease, including:
- Iron Deficiency Anemia
Iron is a mineral that is essential for the production of hemoglobin, a protein in red blood cells that is reponsible for carrying oxygen to the body’s tissues. People with celiac disease may have trouble absorbing iron from food, leading to iron-deficiency anemia, a condition in which the body doesn’t have enough red blood cells to carry oxygen to the body’s tissues.
- Vitamin B12 Deficiency
Vitamin B12 is a vitamin that helps make red blood cells and keep the nervous system functioning properly. People with celiac disease may have trouble absorbing vitamin B12 from food, leading to a deficiency. This can further be verified with the help of a celiac disease test.
- Folate Deficiency
Folate is a B vitamin essential for producing new cells, including red blood cells. People with celiac disease may have trouble absorbing folate from food, leading to a deficiency.
- Calcium Deficiency
Calcium is a mineral that is essential for strong bones and teeth. People with celiac disease may have trouble absorbing calcium from food, leading to a deficiency.
- Vitamin D Deficiency
Vitamin D is a vitamin that is essential for strong bones and teeth, as well as for immune function. People with celiac disease may have trouble absorbing vitamin D from food, leading to a deficiency.
The Impact of Nutrient Deficiencies on Overall Health
Nutrient deficiencies can have a significant impact on overall health and well-being. For example, iron-deficiency anemia can cause fatigue, shortness of breath, and weakness. Vitamin B12 deficiency can cause fatigue, weakness, and numbness or tingling in the hands and feet.
In addition to that, folate deficiency can cause birth defects in a developing fetus. On the contrary, calcium and vitamin D deficiencies can lead to osteoporosis, a condition in which bones become brittle and fragile.
Managing and Preventing Nutrient Deficiencies
There are several ways to manage and prevent nutrient deficiencies in people with celiac disease, including:
- Following a Gluten-Free Diet
Apart from getting celiac disease treatment, the most crucial step in managing the celiac disease is following a strict gluten-free diet. This means avoiding all foods containing wheat, barley, and rye, as well as products made from these grains, such as bread, pasta, and baked goods.
- Taking Supplements
Taking vitamin and mineral supplements can help prevent nutrient deficiencies in people with celiac disease. A healthcare provider can recommend the right supplements based on your needs and deficiencies.