Chances are that you associate the term ‘malnutrition’ with the plight of under nourished children in impoverished nations or ones that are reeling under war. But hidden away in your own body, unbeknownst to you, celiac disease may be causing malnutrition. You heard that right.
You may well be malnourished despite having access to the most nutritious of foods.
The immediate effect will be a difficulty in digesting foods. In due time however, this will start to weaken your immunity making you more prone to infections. Your endocrine system is affected. Your hormonal production will start to fluctuate.
In men, one of the most debilitating effects of celiac linked malnutrition is the drop in testosterone levels which can lead to low libido, reduced muscle tone, sagging skin and low energy.
It is a domino effect that starts to spread to almost every major biological process in the body. And it is a tad surprising for the person experiencing these symptoms.
Most people who are diagnosed with celiac related malnutrition are unable to reconcile the situation. It sounds contradictory.
‘How can one be malnourished despite eating all that you want to?’
That’s the first reaction. But if you read into the details, it all starts to fall into place. To be able to understand how celiac disease can cause malnutrition, you must first understand what causes celiac disease.
What is celiac disease?
Celiac disease is an autoimmune condition that is triggered by gluten. The body mistakes the gluten protein to be a foreign invader and starts to attack it, damaging the villi in the small intestine. As the condition remains undiagnosed, you continue to consume gluten in many forms unaware of the damage that it is doing to your body.
Eventually, it will damage the villi to such an extent that it becomes flat and is unable to absorb any nutrients from the food you consume.
This is where the connection of celiac to malnutrition begins.
Despite consuming the most nutrient dense foods, celiac patients are only able to absorb a fraction of it, or none of it at all. Some of the nutritional deficiencies can trigger a whole range of unpleasant symptoms.
Nutritional deficiencies associated with Celiac
Untreated celiac patients are often found to be deficient in Zinc, Magnesium, Iron, Folate, Carnitine, Calcium, Fatty acids and Vitamins B6, B12 D, K, E, C.
Apart from the effect on hormonal production, this can also lead to several other problems.
Zinc: One of the first signs of Zinc deficiency is a weakened immune system. Other than this, there’s diarrhea, hair loss, loss of appetite and weakened cognitive functioning. Zinc deficiency is also one of the main reasons of low testosterone in men.
Folate: Folate is a B Vitamin that is absorbed by the villi in the small intestine, like a lot of other B vitamins. Once again, a weakened immune system is often the first sign of Folate deficiency. But it is to limited to that. Lethargy, feeling low on energy, sudden unexplained mood swings, pale skin, anemia and premature thinning and graying of hair are some of the symptoms of folate deficiency.
Iron: Unexplained anemia is considered as a red flag for celiac by physicians these days. That’s because most people with untreated celiac are anemic and found to be deficient in RBC. This leads to the lack of oxygen to many parts of the body and the person often feels fatigued and may even experience frequent palpitations.
Vitamin D and Magnesium: Vitamin D deficiency in celiac patients is an extremely serious condition that can lessen bone mass and even lead to the early onset of osteoporosis or brittle bone disease. Unlike typical Vitamin D deficiency which can be countered with supplementation, Celiac prevents the body from absorbing the Vitamin rendering supplementation ineffective.
Calcium: Along with Vitamin D and magnesium, Calcium is the most important mineral that is responsible for developing strong bones. Deficiency leads to osteoporosis, weak and brittle hair, nails and unexplained seizures.
Carnitine: Carnitine is a vital amino acid which cannot be metabolized by Celiac patients. The symptoms include muscle necrosis, hypoglycemia, fatigue, muscle aches and cardiomyopathy.
Fatty Acids: Fats are often excreted in the stool of celiac patients as it cannot be absorbed by the small intestine. The result is that good fatty acids like Omega-3 and Omega-6 are not absorbed by the body. As is the case with other deficiencies, even supplementation does not help because the small intestine is not absorbing it. Some symptoms are fatigue, poor memory and sudden mood swings. Other than this, it can also lead to pale skin and premature thinning of hair.
Switching to a gluten-free diet
Despite sounding ominous, the obvious cure to all these deficiencies is to switch to a complete gluten-free diet. Within just months of going gluten-free, the levels of all these nutrients are known to return to their normal levels in the body.
Some physicians may also recommend supplementation to speed up recovery. But this method is only chosen in extremely rare conditions. In most cases, the villi returns to normal in a few months of going gluten-free and most of the deficiencies are cured automatically.
If you are continuing to experience symptoms of deficiencies despite stopping your gluten intake, then your physician may choose to conduct tests to check for specific deficiencies.
Gluten sensitivity or Celiac Disease has a whole range of symptoms that can manifest in more ways than what you can imagine. That’s one of the reasons why the condition remains undetected for years in some people. Not everyone would be aware that the tingling sensation that they have been feeling in both arms and legs is linked to that pint of beer they have been enjoying every day.
That’s called neuropathy by the way, another strange symptom of Celiac disease.
One of the more commonly seen but extremely debilitating conditions is called Dermatitis Herpetiformis. The symptoms of this condition are as excruciating as pronouncing the name can be.
Dermatitis Herpetiformis is a form of Celiac that can cause extremely painful and itchy blisters on some parts of the body. Before we venture into how difficult the condition can be, let us give you the good news. (If you consider it good that is)
The extent of damage to the small intestines of people suffering from Dermatitis Herpetiformis is lesser than what usually occurs. In other words, instead of attacking the gluten protein in the small intestines, the immune system redirects the attack to the dermal layer or the skin.
What is Dermatitis Herpetiformis?
Typically, in Celiac, ingesting gluten in any form triggers an autoimmune response from the body that results in the formation of lgA antibodies. These antibodies mistake the gluten protein to be an external threat and start to attack it in the small intestines, damaging the villi (finger-like structures), which are responsible for the absorption of nutrients from our food.
The result is a horde of symptoms and conditions that are highlighted by the inability of the body to absorb nutrients.
In Dermatitis Herpetiformis however, rather than attacking the gluten protein in the small intestine, the lgA antibodies get deposited under the upper layer of the skin resulting in a group of red blisters that can be extremely itchy.
While the blisters are normally seen on areas like the knees, the back of the elbows and near the buttocks, newer cases have been detected off-late, in which the blisters have been seen even on the face and the scalp.
Dermatitis Herpetiformis can begin as early as 15 years but can occur at any age. It is more commonly seen in men than in women.
What are the symptoms of Dermatitis Herpetiformis?
Dermatitis Herpetiformis was first linked to Celiac in 1967, by using a gluten-free diet to stop the eruption of blisters on the body.
Until then, it was largely believed to be a chronic skin condition that can cause severely painful blisters.
The symptoms, well, one celiac sufferer puts it down in his own words like this.
‘It feels like rolling in stinging nettles naked with a severe sunburn, then wrapping yourself in a wool blanket filled with ants and fleas’
That would be the best way to describe how people with the condition feel when the blisters break out.
A lot of people mistake the blisters to be eczema because it is very similar in appearance. There are red bumps which are extremely itchy and usually have a uniform shape and size all over the body. Instead of blisters, some people experience a breakout that is characterized by scratch marks.
The only way to confirm if you have Dermatitis Herpetiformis is to undergo a small skin test.
How to diagnose Dermatitis Herpetiformis
To confirm that the symptoms are in fact Dermatitis Herpetiformis, doctors recommend a skin biopsy, in which, a small sized part of the skin (less than 4 mm in diameter) is removed from an area that is not affected by the blisters. This skin is then tested for the presence of IgA antibodies. The test is not painful and can be completed within minutes.
If antibodies are detected in the skin, then doctors may also recommend a biopsy of the small intestine and a blood test to confirm their diagnosis.
What is the treatment method?
Dermatitis Herpetiformis was first detected in 1884. It was linked to Celiac disease much later in 1964. Until then, the condition was purely treated with medication. Dapsone, an antibiotic drug that belongs to the category of Sulfones, has been effective in healing the blisters. It does not, however cure the condition. Also, the blisters recur when the drugs are discontinued. To control the condition with drugs, one would have to continue using the drugs for life which can be extremely hazardous and cause side effects.
Almost 25% of people have an adverse reaction when they use Dapsone. So, it is neither the safest nor the gentlest of medications that you can use.
The only way to completely stop the blisters from erupting is to follow a strict gluten free diet. To prevent outbreaks of the condition in future and prevent other health complications from happening, one must continue to adhere to a gluten free diet for life. This also prevents the need for using drugs to control the blisters.
However, it has been noted that it may take up to 6 months for a gluten-free diet to take effect in helping reduce the blisters. In some cases, patients have had to continue using the drugs for up to 2 years after switching to a gluten free diet.
The condition is one of the most stubborn ones to treat. Patience and persistence with constant monitoring is the only way to completely cure it.
Other possible complications
While Dermatitis Herpetiformis is not an autoimmune condition in itself, the incidence of an autoimmune disorder in DH patients is considerably higher. For this reason, it is possible that other conditions like diabetes and thyroid disease may develop, making it crucial to screen for these conditions on an annual basis.
Other than this, there are certain mild autoimmune conditions which may also develop in patients suffering from DH.
In extremely rare cases, Lymphoma, which is a type of cancer has been noted in DH.
The risk of autoimmune conditions developing can be considerably reduced with a strict gluten-free diet.
Not sure what to eat on a gluten-free diet? Here is a detailed food list guide that’s safe to follow.
Below you will find a brief overview of the gluten-free foods that you can eat, scroll down to see each section.
Being on a diet isn’t easy, especially when going on a gluten-free diet, which can be confusing and daunting, which is why we’ve put together this list of gluten-free foods to help people out there who are confused about what to eat, and to make the best decisions possible when shopping while on the diet.
We tried to keep everything simple and as comprehensive as possible, but please, if we have forgotten anything on this list, let us know by shooting us an email over at our contact page.
We hope you find our gluten-free foods section informative.
Whether it’s from freshwater or saltwater, seafood is nutrient-rich with good sources of vitamins and minerals, rich in healthy omega-3 fatty acids, low in fat, cholesterol and high in protein.
Nature provides us with everything we need, especially sources that are grown organically and in this case, the sea. We can’t mention this enough, avoid all seafood that is cultivated in farms and fed food that contains wheat.
Seafood, fish specifically; is an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids, it’s a type of polyunsaturated fat that’s essential since we can’t produce it. It plays various important roles in our bodies just like most vitamins and minerals, so it’s something that you don’t want to cut back on. Some reasons why you shouldn’t cut back on omega-3 are because:
It helps to lower elevated triglyceride levels, which can cause heart disease if its levels are too high.
It can also curb your joint pain and stiffness as it boosts anti-inflammatory drugs.
Studies show that omega-3 can help to reduce symptoms of ADHD and improved mental health.
Research shows that foods with higher levels of omega-3 promote lower levels of depression.
There are various other health benefits from eating seafood, aside from those already mentioned above like having lower fat but healthy fats, being a good source of vitamins, minerals, and protein.
Your best choice when it comes to seafood is to choose anything preferably caught fresh and from the wild such as:
Total Fat (g)
Trout (3 oz.)
Haddock (3 oz.)
Shrimp (100 grams)
Catfish (3 oz.)
Halibut (3 oz.)
Mackerel (100 grams)
Mahi-mahi (100 grams)
Snapper (3 oz.)
Tuna (3 oz.)
Cod (3 oz.)
Flounder (3 oz.)
Sole (3 oz.)
Bass (3 oz.)
Turbot (3 oz.)
Walleye (3 oz.)
Flatfish (3 oz.)
Grouper (3 oz.)
Anchovy (3 oz.)
Herring (3 oz.)
As important as it is to eat fatty seafood, it may also have higher levels of toxins, mercury, and PCBs, that’s why we suggest you avoid all sources that are farm-raised.
Meat and Poultry
As far as meat and poultry go, there aren’t a lot of limitations.
You can eat the foods mentioned below that does not contain a sauce or marinade that contains gluten, try to choose free-range and grass fed.
One of the reasons we suggest grass-fed is because of a debate in the gluten-free community that grain-fed animal meat isn’t considered gluten-free.
Scientifically speaking, any gluten protein eaten by grain-fed animals would be broken down into individual amino acids which are the basic building blocks of protein, any resulting meat or poultry would be gluten-free, considering no seasonings, marinades or sauces have been added.
The primary reason why we suggest grass-fed is for its obvious health benefits such as less overall fat, higher levels of antioxidants, omega-3 fatty acids and conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) which is known to reduce risks of diseases like heart disease, cancer, and various other benefits.
Free-range animals produce eggs with two times more omega-3 fatty acids, three times more vitamin E and six times more vitamin D, less saturated fat and cholesterol, and seven to nine times higher levels of beta-carotene.
Total Fat (g)
Chicken (breast) (100g)
Eggs (pastured/omega-3 enriched eggs) (100g)
From our research and reports from thousands of users, people that eat grass-fed poultry or meat feel better on a gluten-free diet, especially those with celiac disease.
Vegetables and Legumes
On a gluten-free diet, try to go after vegetables and legumes that are fresh, and opt for organic as there are fewer pesticide residues, but it is entirely optional since studies show that both non-organic and organic vegetables contain the same nutritional values.
Vegetables and legumes are an important part of a healthy diet; they’re low in calories, a great source of minerals and vitamins like folate, vitamin c, magnesium, fiber and they have many phytochemicals.
There’s a lot of different types of vegetables grown all throughout the world; the choices are almost limitless as they come from various parts of the plant such as the seeds, stems, roots, leaves, tubers, and the flowers.
Legumes, on the other hand, are the seeds of the plants that are eaten in their immature and mature form like beans, chickpeas, lentils.
The great thing about legumes and vegetables is that they’re versatile when it comes to what you can do with them, you can eat them raw, sliced, fried, boiled, grated, baked, mixed with spices and herbs.
Below are some options for you to include in your cooking arsenal, although there are many other vegetables and legumes that you can add, whether frozen or canned will depend on your choice.
Scallion (Green onions)
Mexican Black Bean
Do eat your vegetables, most are associated with reducing risks of various diseases like coronary heart disease. It even reduces risks of stroke and even weight gain.
Grains, nuts and seeds
The goal here is to go after plain nuts, seeds, and especially grains, not roasted or flavored. Do not buy from bulk bins due to the high possibility of cross-contamination from other food sources that contains gluten such as seasonings which are usually how most people eat them.
Nuts, seeds, and grains all contain nutrients that help boost our health, they’re packed with powerful vitamins, minerals such as zinc, magnesium, and phosphorus (that helps in bone development and immunity), healthy mono and polyunsaturated fats (that are essential in both reducing inflammation but also in maintaining the structure of the cells), and proteins.
The few benefits mentioned above aren’t the only ones, all of them contain higher amounts of vitamins and various ranges of it, various other minerals, they’re high energy foods, it lowers bad cholesterol levels, and it protects artery walls from damage.
If you want to get the most benefits from nuts and seeds, including more nutrients from them you should learn how to sprout them.
Check the labels to identify if the grains is, in fact, gluten-free as there have been researches proving that many naturally gluten-free grains can quite often contain gluten due to cross-contact with other grains, either through harvesting or processing. If you’re unsure whether or not they are gluten-free, call the company or ask the seller to verify.
Buckwheat (It’s gluten-free)
Rice (Brown or white)
Note: be extra careful with oats, they are frequently contaminated with wheat, especially due to cross-contact during processing.
Bread and Flour
When it comes to baking your own bread, you really need to know your way around the kitchen, in case you don’t, you can always find instructions at our gluten-free recipes section.
Bread are all out of options unless they’re specifically gluten-free made, whether you bought it or made it yourself.
Wheat flour is used mostly used for bread making, but also from rye, barley, and other gluten-containing grains. It’s hard to find gluten-free bread at your local market; you’re better off baking it yourself or buying it online.
For flour, you can ground it yourself from all the gluten-free grains, nuts, and even seeds or you can buy online just as you would the bread or the mix. You can refer to the section above to see the list of gluten-free grains, seeds, and nuts that you can use to grind it into flour yourself.
There is gluten-free bread mix to buy online as well to make your life easier.
Below are the safe gluten-free bread and flour list that you can get yourself without worries if you’re planning to buy it.
We choose Bob’s Red Mill since they’re well known, but keep in mind that there are many other suppliers out there that are just as good and trustworthy.
All plain fruits are naturally gluten-free, so you can chow down your favorite fruits without worries.
Opt for fresh fruits, and avoid canned or fruits in containers as they’re subjected to gluten contamination from other food sources, especially from markets that cut them up in the deli section.
However, If you buy canned fruits as they’re easier specially for storage, make sure to only purchase from suppliers that are safe.
Eating fruits provides us with nutrients that are vital for the maintenance of our bodies and overall health, and fruits are one of the best and healthiest options to acquire those nutrients.
Some of those essential nutrients that we often end up under consuming which can lead to deficiencies include vitamin C, folic acid, dietary fiber, and even potassium. Most fruits are also naturally low in calories, sodium, and fat.
If you eat fruits as an overall part of your diet, then you reduce risks of heart disease, stroke, heart attack and kidney stones. It can also protect you against cancer, type 2 diabetes, obesity, and go as far as lowering blood pressure as well.
Fruits even fo as far as fighting skin disorders, and promotes hair growth too.
We can’t get too detailed with these facts, but you clearly see the importance of eating fruits to experience general health benefits, so be sure to get an ample amount of nutrients, even If you have a busy lifestyle, avoid processed foods as they harm the body and won’t fully provide you with the essential nutrients that fruits offer.
Note: It’s always suggested to avoid eating fruits with meals as it can cause severe acidity and digestive issues, be sure to eat them before or after your meals with an hour of separation.
Avoid keeping fruits in extremely cold or hot places as it reduces their shelf life, room temperature and dry is perfect.
Milk whether whole, lactose-free or low-fat and general dairy products such as cheese and yogurt are naturally gluten-free, the issues come when they have gluten-containing ingredients, so it’s imperative to read the labels when it comes to dairy and gluten.
Try to go for organic dairy products.
When it comes to cheese products, in most cases they’re gluten-free, but you must be extra careful with the ones that contain certain preservatives (processed cheese), and ingredients like spices that may have gluten, you will have to read the labels.
Interesting fact, about 75% of the world’s population can’t properly digest lactose, in other words, the body is unable to break down lactose when we’re adults, just like gluten intolerance, there’s lactose intolerance, and a good percentage of people with celiac have it as well.
Most people consume dairy for the taste, and nowadays it’s difficult to avoid it, but aside from the taste, another reason is that it’s very nutritious providing proper amounts of calcium, vitamin D, vitamin B12, Potassium, Riboflavin, Phosphorus and a range of other vitamins.
There is clinical research showing that high levels of Gliadin, a protein component from Gluten passes through to a mother’s breast-milk. If your baby has a gluten intolerance, then it can cause some problems. 
Here we have a list of gluten-free milk that you can enjoy without worries about it containing gluten.
In case you’re choosing your local market, try to pick quality dairy that’s grass-fed and pasture-raised, and avoid low-fat dairy as they are usually loaded with sugar.
Drinks and Beverages
Many beverages are gluten-free, such as sports drinks, sodas, and juices from fruits.
As far as fruit juices, as long as they’re made from 100% fruit then it should be safe. The problem begins with “juice drinks”, which normally contains many added ingredients (which can contain gluten) and just a small percentage of the actual fruit juice.
Bad news for beer drinkers on a gluten-free diet. Just about all beers are off limits as they’re made with barley, hops, and ingredients that aren’t gluten-free.
Beer that has been processed to remove gluten from barley are not gluten-free, there has been a huge problem when it comes to this matter. Some beer companies state that they’re able to produce beers that contain less than 6 ppm.
When it comes to alcoholic beverages, you can enjoy all distilled alcohol as the gluten is removed during the distillation process. Just be careful of added ingredients after distillation, as it will no longer be gluten-free.
All the sodas listed below are considered to be gluten-free up to 20ppm.
Sodas (Read below)
Barq’s root beer
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