The Paleo Diet & Celiac Disease

Gluten Free

Gluten Free is the way to be!

Can the Paleo diet help resolve Celiac disease and gluten intolerance?  Celiac disease is one of the most commonly misdiagnosed diseases in the United States today. It can be completely asymptomatic (without symptoms) in some people, and manifest major, obvious symptoms in others. The gluten protein found mainly in wheat, barley and rye food products causes Celiac disease, because it is not well tolerated by a large percentage of the human population. Gluten is able to pass through the endothelial barrier in the small intestine, and make it into the blood stream where it can cause a massive amount of health problems, that are often not commonly associated with the foods that we eat.

Here are some of the known diseases and symptoms associated with gluten intolerance and Celiac disease:

  • Abdominal Distention
  • Abdominal Pain and Cramping
  • Alternating Bouts of Diarrhea and Constipation
  • Anemia
  • Arthritis
  • Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD)
  • Autism
  • Bloating (see Gluten Intolerance Bloating)
  • Bone Density Loss
  • Borborygmi (stomach rumbling)
  • Constipation (see Celiac Disease Constipation)
  • Stunted Growth and Failure to Thrive
  • Depression, Anxiety and Irritability (see Celiac Depression)
  • Dermatitis Herpetiformis (skin rash — see my Dermatitis Herpetiformis article)
  • Diabetes
  • Diarrhea
  • Fatigue
  • Malodorous Flatulence
  • Malodorous Stools
  • Gluten Ataxia (see my Gluten Ataxia article)
  • Grayish Stools
  • Hair Loss (Alopecia)
  • Headaches and Migraines
  • Hypoglycemia
  • Infertility
  • Joint pain
  • Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis
  • Lactose intolerance
  • Mouth sores or mouth ulcers
  • Nausea
  • Numbness or tingling in the patient’s hands and feet
  • Osteoporosis
  • Peripheral Neuropathy (including either a tingling or sensation of swelling your toes and fingers)
  • Sjogren’s Disease
  • Steatorrhea (high lipids in the stool, which may cause the stool to float)
  • Teeth and Gum Problems
  • Turner Syndrome
  • Vitamin and Mineral deficiencies
  • Vomiting
  • Unexplained Weight loss

As you can see, the list is large, and I’m sure most people don’t normally associate many of the items on this list with gluten.

Gluten problems are separated into three distinct categories: wheat allergy, Non-Celiac Gluten Intolerance (NGCI), and Celiac disease. A wheat allergy response manifests in much the same way as seasonal allergies, and is entirely different from gluten intolerance and Celiac disease. A person can be intolerant to gluten, without having Celiac disease, while still exhibiting many of the same symptoms. On the flip side, a person can have Celiac disease without having a gluten allergy, but in contrast, a person cannot have Celiac disease without first being gluten intolerant.

Celiac disease occurs after being intolerant to gluten for an extended period of time, during which the absorbent hairs (villi) on the lining of the small intestine become worn down, to the point at which nutrient absorption becomes greatly decreased, and other potentially harmful foreign particles are able to penetrate the gut lining and gain access to the circulatory system. This is often commonly known as “leaky-gut”.

Celiac Disease

Celiac Disease

Since we now know that in a person with Celiac disease, the gluten protein is able to penetrate the gut-lining and stimulate the immune system, and at the same time, thanks to the wearing-down of the hairs on the gut-lining, other nutrients are not being properly absorbed in the blood, it’s easy to see how all of the items on the symptom list could be associated with this situation.

The way that the body responds when it encounters the gluten protein in the blood, is to employ the immune system to attack the foreign particle. This creates an autoimmune environment in the body, where the body literally begins to attack itself, as well as the offending gluten protein. Many diseases that are known to be autoimmune in nature which often turns into an inflammatory response, could easily be caused by gluten intolerance or Celiac disease, such as:

  • Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
  • Crohn’s Disease
  • Ulcerative Colitis
  • Lupus
  • Multiple Sclerosis
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Migraines
  • Rheumatoid Arthritis

There are several ways to test for gluten intolerance, and Celiac disease, but most conventional methods are notorious for producing false negatives. Blood tests are often inconclusive, because many of the standard tests look for gluten allergy, or full-blown Celiac disease, and completely miss gluten intolerance in non-Celiac patients. In my opinion, two of the best testing facilities that offer what are the most cutting-edge and effective gluten panels are Enterolab, and Cyrex Laboratories. Anything else is basically a crapshoot as far as reliable results go.

One of the easiest ways to test for gluten intolerance, or Celiac disease, is by elimination diet. If a person completely removes all gluten from their diet for thirty days, and any of their symptoms improve or completely resolve, it should be obvious that gluten was the cause of the issues. At that point, the goal should be to KEEP gluten out of the diet for life, or suffer the consequences.

The problem with eliminating gluten is that it’s not purely as simple as just not eating bread. Gluten is found in many non-bread household items today, because it is used to provide binding and texture qualities for processed food items. Sometimes gluten is found in boxed foods that would never normally include gluten, because the manufacturer added it.

There are a huge multitude of gluten-free products on the market today, and some of them actually taste close to the original, but sadly others do not. But let’s be honest here, any item that would naturally have gluten in it, or items that have gluten added, are not real foods. Are any of these overly processed, mixed, baked, fried, and packaged Franken-foods something that you or your family should be eating at all? I don’t think so.

 “While western civilization has come to rely on gluten not only as an important nutritional protein but also as a utility for obtaining a desired texture and elasticity in foods, in recent years some substantial and controversial studies suggest our bodies may not tolerate and digest gluten as well as everyone had always assumed. It is worth noting that some people believe this applies to everyone, and not just people suffering from some degree of gluten sensitivity.” –

There is a growing group of people who firmly believe that the grains that contain the gluten protein were never intended to be eaten by humans, let alone become such a large percentage of the average modern human diet. Check this article.

So, a person could potentially remove gluten from their diet, while still eating mostly the same foods, in largely the same way. But there is a much better way. The Paleo lifestyle involves eating only whole, real, natural foods, while avoiding all grains as part of the diet. If you’re not eating the grains, and avoiding all of the processed foods that have gluten added to them, it suddenly becomes a whole lot easier to avoid that nasty gluten protein.

When you focus on meats, vegetables, fruits, nuts, and berries, without all of the processed garbage, you get the most nutritious diet compared calorie-for-calorie to any other diet out there. The Paleo diet is the original human diet. It’s the way that we were intended to eat, without any of the modern processed foods that cause us so many health problems.

Recent studies show that if a person were to follow a Paleo style of diet for only one year, all damage to the small intestine and its lining would be completely repaired. That’s huge! That means that you can make a few simple dietary changes and heal yourself, without the help of a doctor or expensive medicine.

Don’t be fooled though, once you have gluten intolerance, you will have it for the rest of your life. Staying away from gluten for a year should repair your intestinal lining and make your symptoms vanish, but it can’t heal your gluten intolerance. If you slipped and ate a piece of bread, your symptoms would instantly come crashing back into your life. That’s why you need something more sustainable. Make the change to go Paleo, and keep it up for life.

Even if you have absolutely none of the symptoms listed for gluten intolerance, or Celiac disease, try going Paleo for a month, and you might be surprised to find out that you still end up feeling much better without the gluten as well as all of the processed junk.

What do you have to lose?

Take the plunge now by taking my 30-Day UN-Challenge. It’s a 30-day step-by-step guide to cutting out all the foods that are causing you problems, and stopping you from being the lean and healthy you that you deserve to be.


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Barry Cripps is a Paleo-based Nutrition and Wellness Consultant, who operates out of Bowling Green, Kentucky.

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