Effective Ways to Treat Celiac Disease

The symptoms of celiac disease can come in many forms. Treating the condition early helps prevent permanent health implications.

Man holding up a blackboard that says ‘Gluten Free’

Celiac disease (CD) is an autoimmune condition in which gluten consumption triggers damage to the small intestines. Gluten is a type of protein found in wheat, rye, or barley.

According to a study on healthy young adults in Malaysia, the seroprevalence of CD antibodies is 1.25%. In addition, the condition is underdiagnosed and can be a more worrying health problem than previously thought.

Read on to discover the risk factors of CD and ways to do away with the condition effectively. 

Girl with Down’s syndrome smiling gleefully
Down’s syndrome is a comorbid condition that increases a person’s risk of celiac disease.

Risk Factors Behind the Occurrence of Celiac Disease 

It’s unclear as to why you can get CD, but several factors can make you susceptible to the condition.

Genetics 

People who have a first-degree relative – a parent or sibling – with CD have a one in ten danger of being stricken with the condition. It relates to various mutations of HLA-DQ genes, which support immune system development. Talk about tough luck! 

Though, these mutations are common, thus suggesting that other factors may also increase your risk of CD. 

Comorbid medical conditions 

Digestive system infections like the rotavirus or Norwalk virus during early childhood can also make you prone to CD.

Studies also show that introducing gluten to an infant before three months of age can put them at risk of the condition. A child who’s not breastfed when they were fed gluten-rich foods will also be vulnerable to CD.

Separately, CD can also stem from a number of medical disorders, including: 

  • Down’s syndrome  
  • Turner syndrome 
  • Ulcerative colitis 
  • Crohn’s disease 
  • Rheumatoid arthritis 
  • Multiple sclerosis 
  • Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE) 
  • Type 1 diabetes 
  • Neurological disorders 
  • Thyroid disorders (Hashimoto’s disease) 

Body constitution imbalances 

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) recognises pathogenic factors to be aggravators of the condition. “Cold, Dampness, Heat, Blood Stasis and qi (vital life force) Stagnation can disrupt Liver, Kidney, Spleen and Stomach functions. It can also upset the Small and Large Intestines. Deficiencies in these vital viscera, too, may lead to celiac disease,” explains Brandon Yew, a Senior TCM Physician at Real Health Medical.

Notable Symptoms of Celiac Disease in Children and Adults 

You might experience two or more symptoms of CD at any given time. These may improve when you switch to a gluten-free diet. However, symptoms like damage to tooth enamel and stunted growth are indefinite, especially among children. 

Digestive disorders, in particular, are more likely to affect ankle-biters than adults. Examples of these are: 

  • Bloating 
  • Constipation 
  • Abdominal pain and distention 
  • Lactose intolerance 
  • Nausea or vomiting 
  • Loose, bulky, greasy or foul-smelling stools 

On the contrary, grown-ups can have symptoms which are specific to individual areas of the body, such as: 

  • Dermatitis herpetiformis (blistery skin rash) 
  • Anemia (usually from iron deficiency) 
  • Loss of bone density (osteoporosis) 
  • Pain in the joints and bones 
  • Mental health disorders like anxiety and depression 
  • Canker sores, mouth dryness, mouth ulcers and a red, shiny tongue 
  • Nervous system conditions like numbness and tingling in the feet and hands, headaches, fatigue, seizures, cognitive impairment and peripheral neuropathy 
  • Reproductive problems like delayed or missed menstrual periods, or male and female infertility 

How to Tackle Celiac Disease Head-on 

Firstly, healthcare providers will use your clinical history to determine if you’re at risk of CD. A physical examination will then be performed to look for prominent signs – skin rashes, weight or growth problems, or abdominal pain or swelling – of the condition. Oral issues like tooth enamel defects may also indicate CD. 

A blood test can also be ordered to ascertain levels of antibodies that relate to the condition. Biopsies of the skin and small intestines, on the other hand, can help physicians spot distinct CD symptoms.

You should consult a licensed physician beforehand if you wish to go for TCM treatment. They can propose physical therapies such as acupuncture, moxibustion, cupping, tuina, gua sha and bloodletting; formulas, or herbal ingredients that target unique body constitutions. 

Break free from gluten’s shackles 

That famous line from Queen’s iconic hit epitomises the first step you must take to treat your symptoms. A gluten-free diet can heal a damaged Small Intestine and ameliorate symptoms within days or weeks. One way to do this is to consume a nutritious beverage that uses almonds, buckwheat, oatmeal and fungus instead of bread, cereal or pasta. 

Working with a dietitian, meanwhile, will provide you with CD knowledge on how to: 

  • Check food and product labels for gluten 
  • Curate weekly meal plans 
  • Make conscious choices regarding food and beverage consumption  

 3D illustrations of the he gu, zhong wan and tian shu acupoints
Activating acupoints like he gu (LI4, 合谷), zhong wan (RN12, 中脘)  and tian shu (ST25, 天枢)can improve a person’s overall wellness.

Press ‘PLAY’ on acupoint stimulation 

When viewed through the biomedical science lens, acupuncture demonstrates the ability to regulate intense auto-immune responses and the resulting inflammation.

TCM believes that it can ensure your holistic health bystrengthening gastrointestinal functions, dispelling disease-causing pathogens, and promoting positive blood and qi circulation.

The acupoints that might help are: 

  • He gu (LI4, 合谷) 
  • Zhong wan (RN12, 中脘) 
  • Yin ling quan (SP9, 阴陵泉) 
  • Tian shu (ST25, 天枢
  • Shui dao (ST28, 水道) 
  • Zu san li (ST36, 足三里) 
  • Shang ju xu (ST37, 上巨虛) 
  • Xia ju xu (ST39, 下巨虛) 

It’s worth noting that acupressure can only alleviate mild CD symptoms. If they persist or are severe, seek consultation with a TCM practitioner.

Back up your diet with herbal formulas or ingredients 

Adding herbal ingredients to a soup or porridge can help correct imbalances associated with CD. Some of these are: 

  • Dendrobium (shi hu, 石斛) 
  • Ginseng (sha shen, 沙参)  
  • Poria (fu ling, 茯苓) 
  • Cablin potchouli (huo xiang, 藿香) 
  • Fortune eupatorium (pei lan, 佩兰)  
  • Kudzuvine root (ge gen, 葛根)  
  • White atractylodes (bai zhu, 白术) 
  • Fox nuts (qian shi, 芡实)  
  • Coix seeds (yi yi ren, 薏苡仁)  
  • Lotus seeds (lian zi, 莲子)  
  • White hyacinth beans (bai bian dou, 白扁豆)  
  • Chinese yam (shan yao, 山药)

You can also consider using herbal formulas to ease CD symptoms, including:  

  • Ping wei san (平胃散) 
  • Xiang lian wan (香连丸)  
  • Xiao yao san (逍遥散) 
  • Wu mei wan (乌梅丸) 
  • Tong xie yao fang (痛泻要方)  
  • Ban xia xie xin tang (半夏泻心汤) 
  • Ge gen qin lian tang (葛根芩连汤) 
  • San huang xie xin tang (三黄泻心汤) 
  • Shen ling bai zhu san (参苓白术散) 
  • Xiang sha liu jun zi (香砂六君子) 

Physician Yew cautions, “Please bear in mind that different pathologies behind celiac disease correspond to different underlying body constitutions. It’s strongly advised that you don’t self-medicate without first undergoing a thorough consultation and proper assessment by a TCM practitioner.” 

Early intervention is the best way to stop celiac disease in its tracks. Communicate your intention to use alternative modalities on top of conventional treatments to both a TCM practitioner and medical doctor. In doing so, you’ll learn what works or doesn’t work for you and effectively coordinate the two different approaches to minimise contraindications.

References

  1. MedlinePlus. Celiac Disease. [online] [Accessed 7 April 2022] 
  2. National Library of Medicine. 2015. Prevalence of Serum Celiac Antibodies in a Multiracial Asian Population-A First Study in the Young Asian Adult Population of Malaysia. [online] [Accessed 7 April 2022] 
  3. NHS. Celiac disease. [online] [Accessed 7 April 2022] 
  4. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive System and Kidney Diseases. Symptoms & Causes of Celiac Disease. [online] [Accessed 7 April 2022] 
  5. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive System and Kidney Diseases. Diagnosis of Celiac Disease. [online] [Accessed 7 April 2022] 
  6. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive System and Kidney Diseases. Treatment for Celiac Disease. [online] [Accessed 7 April 2022] 

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