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Wednesday, January 20, 2010

What Every Celiac Should Know: Probiotics

I'm going to make a controversial statement. Many of you have probably heard this, sat at a lab bench and heard a white coat drone about it. People just don't like to talk about it (unless we're talking yogurt). Here it is: You have bacteria in you! And some of it is really, really good and necessary! But, because of Celiac Disease, you probably don't have enough. Have you been GF for a while but have started to feel terrible again? Bloating? Discomfort? Trouble after you eat? Come on, you can admit it. Don't immediately think you have developed an intolerance to every edible item on earth. Stop a moment. Take a breath. And read this little ditty. I'm going to kick this off with something near and dear to my heart (and stomach): Probiotics.

During my recent internet travels I've been harping on and on about probiotics. There are a few things, as Celiacs, that we need to acknowledge.

Our bodies are not the same as everyone else. We are not on an even playing field. Our digestive tracts have been damaged. It is difficult for us to digest food and absorb nutrients from this food. Many people are led to believe that simply going on a Gluten Free Diet will cure them, that their inner workings will spring back to life and flourish. This is partially true: our bodies can heal themselves to an extent. But they need help.

A Gluten Free Diet is not healthy for everyone! I want to be very clear: A Gluten Free Diet is essential for anyone with Celiac Disease and those with Gluten Sensitivities. There is no debating this issue. However, a GF diet is not "healthy" in the sense that it does not promote total body wellness. This study shows that a GF diet decreases the level of good bacteria in the gut. Gut bacteria provide a whole host of services to our bodies; we exist in a mutually beneficial, symbiotic relationship. Without this good bacteria, we are more likely to physically struggle.

Gut bacteria help us break down food that our gluten-damaged bodies are struggling to digest. An exhaustive read of many sites will tell you all about the functions of gut bacteria. Here it is succinctly: Gut bacteria is able to 1. digest unused energy substrates (food), 2. stimulate cell growth (healing!), 3. repress the growth of harmful microorganisms (awesome!), 4. train the immune system to respond only to bad guys (reduced inflammation!), 5. defend against some diseases. How is this NOT something you want in your body?

Besides the GF diet naturally reducing the level of Good Bacteria, if you've ever been on antibiotics you are already at a Good Bacteria Deficit.
Antibiotics kill bacteria. They are not picky, they do not choose between good and bad. They just attack. Think back over your life...have you ever been on antibiotics? In this culture of Western medicine I'm going to go out on a limb here and say "yes" for many of you. If so, you have a triple wammy: 1. You body is damaged from Celiac 2. Your GF diet is decreasing the amount of good bacteria in your body 3. Your antibiotics have killed off a lot of the good guys. Good news! You can replace them with probiotic pills!

Even if you don't read any of the above information you should Definitely Read This. If you:

1. Have been on the GF diet and are now experiencing unexplained symptoms
2. Have ever been on antibiotics
3. Experience bloating after meals
4. Are unable to eat a strange variety of things such as spices or fruits
5. Suddenly feel as if you are developing multiple food allergies/sensitivities

PICK UP A PACK OF PROBIOTICS. Try it for a month or two. After taking probiotics I have been able to expand the number of foods I eat, no longer feel bloated and have seen a marked reduction in the severity of my symptoms when accidentally ingesting dairy (and perhaps gluten). Probiotics are not a cure for Celiac Disease, dairy allergies or the like. They simply make your gut a more hospitable place for natural digestion and bodily function.

Enzymatic Therapy Acidophilus Pearls (90 Pearls)Pearls IC - 90 - CapsuleI personally use Pearls, which can be purchased online, at Whole Foods, Drug Stores and probably several other places. Strangely enough, many probiotics have dairy in them, Pearls are the only I've found which are dairy free. They make them for children, adults and a super-souped up version for people who are at a real defecit. As I have endured no less then 15 or so interactions with antibiotics I did a course of the Intensive Care for good measure. This is what has worked for me, I will never stop taking probiotics. I went a few days without them once and was a hurtin' cookie.

    If you use a different kind of probiotic, have experienced benefit (or not) from taking them or have anything else to add, please share in the comments. I'm talking about this because I feel it is very important and not something the community discusses. Our autoimmune disease is about more than just a diet. It's about healing our bodies, supporting them, acknowledging that we need to do a little extra because of our damage.

Big thanks to Karina for re-sending me this article after I carelessly lost it in my email! (I swear, things disappear from there all the time, it's like the virtual take on the sock mystery)


  1. Love this post! Will definitely try these once I'm off the elimination diet!

  2. Thanks Iris :) ...I'm a little bit on the soap box, but it's something that has really changed my life - just want to share it!

  3. i'm so glad you posted this! my daughters doctor recently recommended that her & i both start taking probiotics. we've both been on antibiotics recently & have been having stomach issues ever since. we feel much better since we've been taking probiotics.

  4. Hi Raposa, that's so great to hear! So happy that they've helped you. It's so refreshing to hear that a doctor has recommended probiotics - I've only encountered those who scorn them. Best of luck to you and your daughter :)

  5. Great to hear! I've taken other brands before but not this one. After I read this I went out an bought the Pearls. Just a question, and this sounds contradictory, but did you notice any intestinal issue when you started taking them? I find that I am extremely bloated since the day I started taking them (similar to how i was with gluten)....seems not to make sense that these would cause that, but that is all that has changed.... Thanks for the tip! I really enjoy your blog!! :)

  6. Hmmm...also bought Daiya cheese at Whole Foods that same day...perhaps that's the issue... :)

  7. Hi Kristin! It is actually pretty normal to feel worse after starting probiotics for either the first time or after not taking them for a while. Not everyone experiences it but plenty of people do.

    It's called the Herxheimer Reaction - it's basically the reaction to toxins in your body being released as bacteria die. Here is a lovely little description:

    The only thing to do is just push through and continue taking the probiotics, it shouldn't last long :)

    Thanks for asking this really important question, I should have addressed it in the post. Good luck, thanks for stopping by!

  8. Jessica - thanks so much for the info! My husband (who doens't have noticable issues with gluten but is going pretty much GF) too started taking them and noticed the same thing. I can't wait to read the article! :)


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