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People with celiac disease have increased bone fracture risk and other bone problems

Posted on January 9th, 2012 by Alison | Posted in Celiac Disease, Symptoms | Read 4 Comments - Add Your Own »

For anyone with bone density problems, bone fractures, osteoporosis, osteopenia, osteomalacia, bone pain or any other bone-related problems, consider getting tested for celiac disease or gluten sensitivity. This is a common symptom that often gets overlooked.  Two recent studies confirm the negative effects of celiac disease on bone health.

A case study of a 29-year old man with no gastrointestinal complaints came in with back pain. It was discovered that he had a compression fracture in his spine, and he reported that he had several bone fractures as a child. Tests revealed low bone density, but that vitamin D levels were normal, despite villous atrophy (damage to his intestines, often preventing the ability to absorb nutrients).

The authors of the report stated that “Celiac disease is often a cause of low bone density and patients with celiac disease have an increased fracture risk, a hazard ratio of 1.43 or 43% increased risk when compared to age-matched healthy populations.” They concluded, “We emphasize considering celiac disease in all patients with idiopathic [arising spontaneously or from an obscure or unknown cause] low bone density even if vitamin D and PTH [parathyroid hormone] levels are normal.”

Another study submitted by doctors in Amsterdam profiled a 29-year old woman bound to a wheelchair who had progressive bone pain, short stature, difficulty walking, scoliosis, softening of the bones, low bone mineral density and poor dental condition. Testing showed that she had villous atrophy, antibodies against gluten, and extremely low vitamin D and low calcium, and was deficient in several other vitamins. She had already been diagnosed with celiac disease at age 17, but apparently wasn’t following the gluten-free diet or was at least getting some amount of gluten exposure. The doctors treated her for 14 days with intravenous calcium and vitamin D, and “the symptoms of the patient rapidly improved; the bone pain decreased, muscle strength and physical performance improved markedly, and she was able to walk unassisted.” Incredible! After 5 1/2 months they found that her bone mineral density had indeed improved.

Have you had bone problems as a result of celiac disease or gluten intolerance? Are you looking for answers to your bone-related health issues? Leave a comment so that your experience can help others or others can help you!

Related reading: Gluten and bone health


Gluten in cosmetics – should you be concerned?

Posted on November 28th, 2011 by Alison | Posted in Celiac Disease, Cosmetics, Gluten Intolerance | Read 14 Comments - Add Your Own »

People with celiac disease, gluten intolerance or a wheat allergy are accustomed to reading ingredient labels to know what they can or cannot eat. But what about cosmetics? Is it necessary to avoid gluten in makeup or shampoo? And if so, how easy is it to spot on a label?

Whether celiacs and gluten-sensitive people need to avoid gluten in their cosmetics, including makeup, lotion, and hair products, has been the subject of debate. During my gluten-free life, I have heard two different schools of thought about this. The conservative one is that celiac disease is a digestive disorder and that to exacerbate the condition, one would have to consume gluten, so lipstick would need to be checked because you are literally consuming it when you wear it. Because this school of thought maintains that gluten cannot be absorbed through the skin, gluten-containing shampoo would be considered safe, as would any other cosmetic or beauty or hygiene product that is not being eaten. The Mayo Clinic’s website is one resource that supports this idea, in their answer to Can gluten be absorbed through the skin? (Their answer is no.)

The other school of thought is that gluten on the skin, or anywhere on the body, can aggravate celiac disease or gluten sensitivity, especially if someone has any associated skin conditions. At the American College of Gastroenterology’s 76th Annual Scientific meeting, doctors presented a case of a 28-year old woman who experienced worsening of her celiac symptoms, including gastrointestinal complications and a recurring skin rash after using a body lotion advertised as “natural.” When she stopped using the lotion, her symptoms resolved. This was just one case, but how common is it to react to gluten in skin products? It’s hard to say, as most of the information is anecdotal, and few studies have been conducted, but I know from the people I have contact with in the gluten-free community that it is a problem for many.

The case of the 28-year old woman prompted researchers to explore how readily available information is about cosmetic ingredients. What they found, and what most of us already know, is that ingredients are difficult to obtain from cosmetic companies. Even if you can obtain all the ingredients, they are difficult to understand. Unlike the food industry, which requires labels to list the top 8 allergens in plain language so we can understand it, the cosmetics industry is not required to make ingredients understandable or list allergens.

I did find some information to help sort through the confusing labels and hopefully locate the gluten ingredients to watch out for.

CosmeticsInfo.org is a website that gives specific information about individual ingredients. In a search for “gluten”, “wheat” and “oat”, I was able to find the following ingredients and their definitions, including what type of cosmetics they are used in:

In addition, I found a commonly circulated list from L’Oreal of ingredients they state “contain wheat and other grains.” It’s not clear to me if all of these ingredients contain gluten (they may contain another grain like corn, for example).

Avena Sativa (Oat) Kernel Flour
Cyclodextrin
Dextrin
Dextrin Palmitate
Hydrolyzed Malt Extract
Hydrolyzed Oat Flour
Hydrolyzed Vegetable Protein
Hydrolyzed Wheat Flour
Hydrolyzed Wheat Gluten
Hydrolyzed Wheat Protein
Hydrolyzed Wheat Protein/PVP Crosspolymer
Hydrolyzed Wheat Starch
Malt Extract
Maltodextrin
Secale Cereale (Rye) Seed Flour
Sodium C8-16 Isoalkylsuccinyl Wheat Protein Sulfonate
Triticum Vulgare (Wheat) Germ Extract
Triticum Vulgare (Wheat) Germ Oil
Triticum Vulgare (Wheat) Gluten
Triticum Vulgare (Wheat) Starch
Wheat Amino Acids
Wheat Germ Glycerides
Wheat Germamidopropalkonium Chloride
Wheat Protein
Wheatgermamidopropyl Ethyldimonium Ethosulfate
Yeast Extract

What about you? Are you careful about the ingredients in your cosmetics, shampoo, lotions? What brands have you found to be gluten-free?


I’ve accidentally eaten gluten … what can I do??

Posted on October 26th, 2011 by Alison | Posted in Celiac Disease, Gluten Intolerance, Symptoms | Read 15 Comments - Add Your Own »

It happens. You accidentally eat gluten, and you become sick. Is there anything you can do?

The following is an email I received from a concerned mother, whose daughter suffered recently from an accidental gluten ingestion:

sickMy daughter has just made a transatlantic flight during which the attendants gave her a meal designated specifically for her as gluten free (she had called ahead). She was vomiting for hours on the flight and on route home from the airport.

In the past she has experienced strong “brain fog”, depression, anxiety, fatigue, multiple canker sores, etc when she has gotten a little bit of gluten (she is a college student and her roommates and their guests have occasionally used her stuff or spilled beer, etc).

We know the appropriate treatment for celiac is a gluten free diet, but what can a person do to treat accidental gluten contamination? Are there foods, medications, or therapies that can help eliminate the toxin from the system and shorten the reaction time?

To answer this question I turned to Sheila Wagner, certified nutritionist specializing in food intolerance. She is also gluten-free and has suffered herself from the ill effects of gluten-by-accident. Here is what Sheila recommends for gluten exposure:

Despite being extra careful about eating gluten free, unfortunately, it’s always possible to encounter gluten in settings where we don’t prepare our own food, such as airplanes, restaurants or parties for example. Particularly for these times, I recommend having DPP-IV enzymes available to assist with lessening the gluten response. DPP stands for dipeptidyl peptidase and it is one of many enzymes that we make in our small intestine. Among its many functions is its ability to digest gluten and casein. Lab studies have shown a decrease in blood levels of gluten antibodies following ingestion of manufactured DPP-IV enzymes.

Compounds like metals, pesticides and certain antibiotics can interfere with DPP-IV function and may account for the differences in functional integrity of this enzyme from person to person. So as much I recommend gluten intolerant individuals carry these enzymes with them just in case they are needed, not everyone will get the same degree of benefit by taking them. There is no one protocol for taking the enzymes but I often suggest taking 1-2 capsules as soon as possible after ingesting gluten (or dairy) and then again later in the evening on an empty stomach in order to mop up any gluten that remains in the system. Some people continue to take 1-2 capsules on an empty stomach the next day and even two days following gluten ingestion to continue their attempts at diminishing the slow acting gluten antibody responses.

You can find DPP-IV enzyme containing products on health food store shelves.  Make sure to read the ingredient labels carefully that the product in fact contains DPP-IV. Both Kirkman Labs and Klaire Labs make products specifically for gluten and casein digestion that contain DPP-IV.

Does anyone else have strategies or product suggestions to help relieve accidental gluten ingestion.


My TV debut speaking about gluten and food allergies!

Posted on October 10th, 2011 by Alison | Posted in Celiac Disease, Food Allergies, Publicity, Sure Foods Living News | Read 14 Comments - Add Your Own »

I am so lucky — I got to talk about celiac disease and food allergies on TV! It makes me happy that over the past 9 years I have been able to share my story in so many ways — through my blog, in newspaper and magazine, in person, in groups and now on television. Cheryl Jennings of ABC 7 in San Francisco was as nice as can be, as was everyone I met at the studio. I also enjoyed meeting and listening to the others interviewed for this segment. I have already received some emails from those who saw it, so I know it has reached some people out there! 🙂

I hope you will watch the whole show, but if you are short on time, my interview starts at 18:18 (I’m the last 4 minutes of the show).







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