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Many of us ate wheat and gluten-containing products from infanthood into adulthood, unaware of the many adverse health effects that came with this socially–sanctioned dietary practice, until our bodies forced us to fully appreciate the darker side of wheat.
Now, having thrust a baguette into the glutinous heart of the wheat monster, many of us have bodies that are still recovering from its ravages.
This article is for those who need guidance on how to repair the damage.
Most of the relevant research is from studies on those suffering from celiac disease. Of the dozen or so that we have indexed thus far,[i] the evidence supporting these three natural substances is the most compelling:
B-Complex: Celiac disease is associated with an autoimmune destruction of the absorptive surface of the intestines, as well as a profound imbalance and/or deficiency of the friendly bacteria that constitute a necessary precondition for both the production and absorption of nutrients within the gut, i.e. dysbios. This amounts to a double-whammy when it comes to the B group vitamins. The entire B group vitamin series is synthesized by friendly gut bacteria, if found in appropriate quantities and ratios. Their absorption depends upon the health of the vili, which are severely damaged and flattened in celiac disease, and non-celiac gluten-related enteropathies. A 2009 study published in the journal Alimentary Pharmacology and Therapeutics found that supplementation with B vitamins improved the health of patients with celiac disease already living on a gluten-free diet. They noticed "Adults with longstanding coeliac disease taking extra B vitamins for 6 months showed normalized tHcy [plasma total homocysteine] and significant improvement in general well-being, suggesting that B vitamins should be considered in people advised to follow a gluten-free diet."[ii]
Carnitine: Carnitine has been observed to be low in children with celiac disease. [iii] It has also been noted that adult patients with celiac disease and cardiomyopathy of unknown origin have low levels of carnitine, which is improved on a gluten-free diet.[iv] A 2007 study published in the journal Digestive and Liver Disease found that L-carnitine treatment was safe and effective in ameliorating fatigue in patients with celiac disease using 2 grams daily for 180 days.[v]
Pancreatic Enzymes: Celiac disease, and severe gluten intolerance, causes quite a bit of damage and enervation to vital organs, including the pancreas. A study published in 2007 in the journal Alimentary Pharmacology and Therapeutics found that pancreatic insufficiency causing persistent symptoms in adults with celiac disease is reduced following pancreatic enzyme supplementation.[vi]
Additional research of value can be found on our Intestinal Permeability research section, which includes over 30 natural substances of potential value. The top three most supported by the evidence we have accumulated thus far are: probiotics, zinc, oats (make sure it is a gluten-free manufacturer), and curcumin, the primary polyphenol in the spice turmeric.
Also, it is important to recognize that many explicitly gluten free foods, including potato, tomato and rice, have lectins which bind to the same molecular targets as wheat gluten, hence complicating matters and interfering with healing in those who are following a strictly gluten-free diet. For more on this read: Rice, Potato, and Tomato May Be As Inflammatory As Wheat. In a nutshell, it may be necessary to focus on eliminating lectin-rich foods, many of which already excluded in a Paleo-diet, such as nightshades, beans, grains and dairy products.
Finally, a word should be said about prevention, as whenever possible it is best to prevent the damage associated with wheat and gluten, rather than the much more difficult prospect of trying to undo the damage once it is already done.
Research shows that longer breastfeeding and continuation of breastfeeding after gluten introduction delays the onset of classic celiac disease.[vii] Cesarean delivery is also associated with increased celiac disease prevalence in children.[viii] [ix] Chewing food thoroughly may also reduce the risk of celiac disease because the oral cavity contains a novel and rich source of gluten-degrading enzymes, hence reducing the antigenicity of gluten.[x]
[iii] Serum carnitine and selenium levels in children with celiac disease. Indian J Gastroenterol. 2004 May-Jun;23(3):87-8. PMID: 15250563
[iv] Carnitine deficiency in patients with coeliac disease and idiopathic dilated cardiomyopathy. Nutr Metab Cardiovasc Dis. 2005 Aug;15(4):279-83 PMID: 16054552
[v] L-Carnitine in the treatment of fatigue in adult celiac disease patients: a pilot study. Dig Liver Dis. 2007 Oct;39(10):922-8. Epub 2007 Aug 10. PMID: 17693145
[vi] Is exocrine pancreatic insufficiency in adult coeliac disease a cause of persisting symptoms? Aliment Pharmacol Ther. 2007 Feb 1;25(3):265-71. PMID: 17269988
[viii] Cesarean delivery is associated with celiac disease but not inflammatory bowel disease in children. Pediatrics. 2010 Jun;125(6):e1433-40. Epub 2010 May 17. PMID: 20478942
[ix] Fertility and pregnancy-related events in women with celiac disease: a population-based cohort study. Gastroenterology. 2005 Apr;128(4):849-55. PMID: 15825068