I’d like to share with you how I restored my gut health after my celiac disease diagnosis in April 2012. Why is this important to share? Mainly because I think too often people think you can heal your gut just by going gluten-free and simply removing the offending gluten from your diet.
However, I found healing myself after my celiac disease diagnosis to be much more involved – and much more important than simply removing gluten from my diet. In fact, it’s been a journey of learning, changing and healing.
As with most things in life, there are never simple solutions. There’s no magic pill to healing celiac disease, just a little common sense and a lot of TLC.
That said, here are four things I did (and you should do) to heal yourself after a celiac disease diagnosis:
1. Take out the gluten. Add in anti-inflammatory foods.
Your gut will start to heal once you remove the irritant (gluten) from your diet, but your body will not make a full recovery without helping it along by eating anti-inflammatory foods. Remember, it’s not just about what you take out of your diet; rather it’s about healing your gut and nursing it back to health.
There is a major difference between recovery and healing. While removing gluten may put you on a path to feeling better, your gut has been massacred by gluten for many years. When I went gluten-free in April 2012, I didn’t feel well at all for many months – actually – many years after I went gluten-free. I felt like everything I ate triggered my belly to bloat up. I suffered from major bloating, gas, and fatigue. No fun!
To heal from celiac disease, I ate a lot of vegetables and fruits. I began green juicing, allowing my digestive system to rest while I soaked in all the nutrients. I began taking a few vitamins and supplements (Vitamin D, Vitamin B, Fish Oil, and a supplement my friend Andrea sells calls Protandim to help me reduce the oxidative stress in my body – I do not endorse nor sell Protandim – I only take it and my gut feels better when I do). Only with these supplements and my new anti-inflammatory diet was I able to heal my gut and begin to feel normal again.
2. Stop eating packaged gluten-free foods. Follow a whole foods diet.
Just because something is labeled “gluten-free” doesn’t mean it’s good for you, especially if you’ve just been diagnosed with celiac disease. While some packaged gluten-free foods are made with quality ingredients, more likely than not, if it comes in a box or bag and you found it at your local grocery store, it was made with cheap starchy substitutes (like rice, corn and soy) and it’s loaded with sugar to mask the taste. I’ve seen many gluten-free flours and products that contain way more empty calories than their gluten counterparts.
Celiac sufferers need to become label detectives to determine what exactly is in those so-called “healthy” gluten-free packaged foods. You may just find that while they remove the offending gluten, they are assaulting your gut in a new and deceptive way.
While packaged foods can feed us in a pinch, the majority of your food should be comprised of whole foods such as whole grains (brown rice, millet, quinoa), proteins (grass-fed meats, pasture-raised chickens and eggs), produce (eat the rainbow), and healthy fats (avocados, nuts, seeds and salmon) to help you nurse your gut back to health. Healing from celiac disease comes faster when you cook at home and make all your food with Vitamin L (love).
3. Stop feeding your gut sugar. Take a probiotic.
Your digestive system is in terrible shape. In fact, your small intestine, which is responsible for a large portion of your digestion, has tiny cuts all over it and the villi required for absorption of nutrition is flattened. Chances are your sour tummy troubles aren’t just from gluten, but also you suffer from candida or yeast growing in your belly. Bad bacteria and yeast like to take up residence in your gut and wreak havoc through gas, bloating and other digestive discomfort.
Guess what feeds and grows yeast? You guessed it, SUGAR!
When going gluten-free, remove (or at least greatly reduce) sugar in your diet. Remember, white flours, like rice and tapioca flour, convert to sugar so focus on eating whole grains, whole fruits and other whole products that haven’t been overly processed. Get your sugar fix from whole fruits and sweet vegetables like beets, carrots and onions.
I also recommend you take a good probiotic (look at the refrigerated section of your health store), and avoid getting your probiotics from sugar-laden products like Yoplait Yogurt and GoodBelly Probiotic drinks, both which contain more sugar than a can of Coke and negate the benefits of your probiotics since the added sugar simply feeds the yeast. Don’t fall for marketing gimmicks – many yogurts and dairy products that contain probiotics are nothing more than sugary snacks. Read labels wisely!
4. Get off GMOs. Go organic.
Genetically modified foods are undeniably linked to illness in our country. While Monsanto would want you to believe otherwise, don’t ever forget that Monsanto is a chemical company that manufactures and sells weed-killing glyphosate (marketed as Roundup). If you want to heal your gut from celiac disease, I suggest you stop eating Roundup-resistant produce, and that you only eat meats that are organic (or better, pasture-raised and grass-fed meats). Conventional animals from factory farms are fed grains like corn and soy. It’s no secret that corn and soy are the most genetically modified crops in our country. In fact, 93% of soy is genetically modified and 88% of corn is too. Plus, pasture-raised, grass-fed animals have more nutrients (they are eating healthy grass and soaking in the sun’s rays), and they are treated more humanely than animals that come from factory lots.
Healing your gut after a celiac disease diagnosis isn’t easy. In fact, it takes patience, know-how, and a commitment to changing your diet for the better. While I don’t wish celiac disease on anyone, my celiac disease diagnosis has been one of the biggest blessings in my life. It forced me to think about food as thy medicine, thy healer and thy teacher. For that, I am forever grateful that I was able to change the trajectory of my health – and my family’s health – for the better!