Do you know someone who is 100% gluten-free? Maybe they even need to double-check with the restaurant servers to ensure there’s no possible gluten cross-contamination on a cutting board or fryer. Many people who are strictly gluten-free have been diagnosed with a condition called celiac disease.
What is Celiac Disease?
Celiac disease (coeliac in the UK) is an autoimmune disorder that causes inflammation and destruction of the small intestine with the consumption of gluten and related proteins. Gluten is found in the cereal grains wheat, barley, rye, and spelt.
Oats, while listed as gluten-free, are frequently contaminated with wheat; hence, the marketing of “gluten-free oats.” Oats, rice, and corn have their own gluten-like proteins that the body may react to in a similar way to wheat gluten, creating cross-reactivity inflammation.
In those who are genetically susceptible, exposure to gliadin, a component of gluten, sets off an immune response that can damage the villi in the small intestine. The villi are tiny finger-like projections in the gut that make it look like shag carpet inside and are responsible for nutrient absorption. When damaged, they cannot do their job well, leading to nutrient deficiencies.
How Common is Celiac Disease?
According to the Celiac Disease Foundation, the condition affects 1 in every 100 people, but only 30% of those who have it have been properly diagnosed. Celiacs must follow a gluten-free diet for life to avoid destruction in their digestive systems. 
Continuing to eat gluten-containing foods leads to worsening health over time, even leading to additional autoimmune diagnoses. Autoimmune thyroid disease is one condition that often accompanies celiac disease.
Symptoms of Celiac Disease
Some of the main signs and symptoms of celiac disease, particularly before removing gluten from the diet, include: 
- Gas and bloating
- Abdominal pain or discomfort
- Chronic constipation or diarrhea (irritable bowel syndrome)
- Nausea or vomiting
- Headaches or migraines
- Anxiety or depression
- Low energy
- Nutrient deficiencies, including iron and calcium
- Weight loss
- Characteristic rash: “dermatitis herpetiformis”
- Canker sores (mouth ulcers)
- Joint pain
Untreated celiac disease can also lead to infertility, unexplained miscarriages, and several medical conditions due to the malnutrition it causes. Osteoporosis and anemia are two health problems that may result from nutrient malabsorption.
Other food allergies may also occur due to the damage done to the small intestinal villi. For example, lactose intolerance is a common food intolerance that accompanies celiac disease.
How is Celiac Disease Diagnosed?
Celiac disease is often first discovered through symptoms like stomach pain or other gastrointestinal symptoms which prompt someone to make an appointment with their doctor. After ruling out other potential causes of the symptoms, a medical professional will order tests, usually the following: 
- Blood test: Positive anti-tissue transglutaminase antibodies (tTGA) or anti-endomysia antibodies (EMA) when on a gluten-containing diet.
- Tissue biopsy: Biopsy of the small intestine (the “gold standard” test for celiac disease)
- Genetic testing: For human leukocyte antigens (HLA-DQ2 and HLA-DQ8)
There are additional tests for CD, but these are most used. Often, years will go by without a person knowing they have celiac disease, because it doesn’t always cause noticeable signs or symptoms.
The Fireman vs. The Carpenter in Healthcare
At The Wellness Way, we describe the main approaches to healthcare as either the “fireman approach” or the “carpenter approach.” “Fireman doctors” have two tools: an axe and a hose. The axe represents cutting things out in a surgical procedure. The hose is similar because it represents medications used to extinguish inflammation and symptoms.
The Wellness Way doctors are like carpenters. They first assess the damage with testing. Then they create a personalized plan to rebuild the body with the appropriate tools. These include the proper nutrients from foods and supplements.
Sunshine, rest, and positive relationships are additional natural therapies that help the body heal itself.
Mainstream Medicine’s Approach to Celiac Disease
Mainstream medicine’s treatment of celiac disease generally includes a recommendation for gluten avoidance for life. Doctors may also prescribe medications to lower inflammation and reduce damage. That’s usually the extent of the treatment plan, unless further diseases develop.
Common Medications For Celiac Disease:
These are some of the most prescribed medications for celiac disease: 
- Steroids (Prednisone)
- Azathioprine (Azasan, Imuran)
- Budesonide (Entocort EC, Uceris),
These medications are used to suppress the inflammatory response, which also means suppressing the immune response. Chronically suppressing the immune system over time may lead to other conditions. These may be serious, like intestinal lymphoma and cancer in the small intestine. No medication is without side effects.
Celiac Disease Isn’t Just Genetic
While genetics can set a person up for Celiac disease, it’s just one leg on the three-legged stool of autoimmune disease. Genes load the gun, but the environment pulls the trigger. Those environmental factors are described in the chiropractic field as trauma, toxins, and thoughts.
Traumas (Physical Stressors)
Traumas or physical stressors can be acute or chronic. Chronic subluxations in the spine can inhibit nerve and blood flow to the small intestine, leading to dis-ease there.
Toxins (Biochemical Stressors)
Toxins are biochemical stressors that may be either natural or synthetic. Even infections like candida can contribute to inflammation in the gut and turn on genes for celiac disease. 
A July 2020 study published in the journal Environmental Research found that toxic chemicals from pesticides, nonstick cookware (PFAS “forever chemicals”), and fire retardants were associated with diagnoses of celiac disease. 
A common herbicide may also be to blame. Glyphosate, the active compound in Roundup has been linked to celiac disease. Glyphosate just happens to deplete the same minerals and amino acids that are common deficiencies in celiac disease. 
Medications are another toxin that can trigger celiac disease. A 2022 study published in the Journal of Pediatrics found that the use of antibiotics and antacids in babies increased the risk of a celiac diagnosis in early childhood. 
Thoughts (Emotional Stressors)
Emotional stress can also be the last straw that triggers autoimmune conditions like celiac disease. A 2013 study confirmed that stressful life events could trigger celiac disease. 
The Wellness Way Approach For Those With Celiac
At The Wellness Way, we dig deeper to solve the health challenges others can’t. Celiac disease is rarely a standalone condition, particularly because it’s an autoimmune condition.
Important Tests For Assessing Your Gut and Immune Health
Here are some commonly recommended tests at The Wellness Way:
- Food Allergy Test: Immuno Food Allergy Test
- Gut Health Test: Genova GI Effects with Parasitology
- Antibody Test: Aurora Life Sciences – Autoimmune 30+
These tests are dependent on which ones your Wellness Way practitioner considers most important for your health history.
Dietary Changes For Those With Celiac and Other Autoimmune Diseases:
A strict gluten-free diet is essential. Beyond that, it’s important to lower inflammation so the gut can heal. That means avoiding your food allergies and following a personalized nutrition program, as recommended by your Wellness Way practitioner. These are some basic guidelines:
- Only gluten-free foods. (Some may also need to avoid lectins, an anti-nutrient present in many foods like quinoa, corn, oats, tomatoes, and others) 
- No sugar or processed foods.
- Overall low carbohydrate, non-inflammatory diet of organic whole foods.
- Personalized Nutrition, based on your food allergy test results
- Specific nutrient-dense foods: Liver/organ meats, sauerkraut, and microgreens for added nutrition
Diet is paramount, but supplements can help the body in healing the digestive tract.
Supplements For Supporting Gut Health
Every patient is different, but common supplements used at The Wellness Way for those struggling with digestive and immune imbalances including celiac disease are:
- Active B12-Folate – Celiac patients are on average 20% likely to be deficient in vitamin B12 and folate. 
- Digestive Glandular – This supplement includes liver glandular, “nature’s multivitamin,” according to Dr. Patrick Flynn.
- D3 & K2 – Vitamin D is important for getting inflammation and autoimmune disease under control. A 2020 study highlighted the role of vitamin D in the health of the mucosal lining of the intestine. 
- Digest-Well Complex – Betaine HCL with apple cider vinegar. This supplement supports stomach acid and overall digestion.
- Well-Zyme Complex -Digestive enzymes like TWW Well-zymes support nutrient breakdown and absorption in the digestive tract.
- Megabiotic Formula – These and other probiotic strains help the body keep infections and inflammation under control.
- Omega-3 supplement – Fish oil is a natural anti-inflammatory that can lower the autoimmune response and help the small intestine heal. 
An enzyme called DPP-IV or dipeptidyl peptidase IV (in Well-Zymes) may be helpful to bring to restaurants in case of accidental gluten exposure. Your test results will help dictate which supplements will work best for you.
Where to Start With Celiac Disease
If you feel like you have issues with gluten-containing foods, the first thing is still to get tested. An antibody test may be the first place to start. That way, you’ll know how strict you need to be in avoiding gluten. A food allergy test can help you find out which other foods are causing inflammation. From there, it’s all about healing the gut, making lifestyle changes, and incorporating herbal supplements based on your individual needs.
Educational Resources For Celiac Disease
Videos & Webinars Related to Celiac Disease
- Leaky Gut | A Different Perspective | Episode 117
- Autoimmune Disease: A Different Perspective | A Different Perspective | Episode 105
- Autoimmunity: The Body Doesn’t Make Mistakes | A Different Perspective | Episode 158
- Celiac: The Reality of Gluten | A Different Perspective | Episode 77
- Gluten Confusion & Facts! | The DPF Show! | Episode 16
Articles to Support Celiac Disease
- Autoimmune Disease is NOT an Immune Issue
- Normalizing Autoimmune Disease –Is It Really a Lifelong Diagnosis?
- How Do I Give Up Gluten? Who Should?
- Is a Gluten-free Diet Healthy? Important Info on Eliminating Gluten
Connect With Us!
We invite you to connect with us! Find an event at a clinic near you! Follow us on social media. Tune in to A Different Perspective each Saturday morning LIVE to get cutting-edge training directly from Dr. Patrick Flynn. Set up a no-obligation health consult with one of our doctors today. The best is yet to come! Think differently – and THRIVE. Reach out to a Wellness Way clinic today to get thorough testing and start on your health journey. We are here to help!
- What is Celiac Disease? | Celiac Disease Foundation
- Symptoms of Celiac Disease | Celiac Disease Foundation
- Celiac Disease Screening | Celiac Disease Foundation
- Celiac disease – Diagnosis and treatment – Mayo Clinic
- Candida albicans in celiac disease: A wolf in sheep’s clothing – PubMed (nih.gov)
- Persistent organic pollutant exposure and celiac disease: A pilot study – ScienceDirect
- Glyphosate, pathways to modern diseases II: Celiac sprue and gluten intolerance – PubMed (nih.gov)
- Acid Suppression and Antibiotics Administered during Infancy Are Associated with Celiac Disease – PubMed (nih.gov)
- Life Events and the Onset of Celiac Disease from a Patient’s Perspective – PMC (nih.gov)
- Lectins Are Toxins – Celiac.com
- Vitamin and Mineral Deficiencies Are Highly Prevalent in Newly Diagnosed Celiac Disease Patients – PMC (nih.gov)
- Possible Role of Vitamin D in Celiac Disease Onset – PubMed (nih.gov)
- Omega-3 fatty acids in inflammation and autoimmune diseases – PubMed (nih.gov)