Celiac and Other Food Intolerances

So you gave up gluten and felt much better, for a while.  Then, inexplicably the symptoms started to return.  Well maybe not exactly the same symptoms but something’s definitely not right.

As I talk to people and progress through this thing myself, I’m finding out that it’s very common for someone with Celiac to have multiple food intolerances.  For example, Celiac disease and lactose intolerance very often go hand in hand.  That’s because the part of the intestine that is responsible for digesting lactose is the part that’s damaged by the Celiac.  The other most common intolerance beside wheat and dairy is eggs.  That’s the big three, wheat, dairy and eggs.  I know, I know, you gave up gluten, it was hard but you did it.  And now you have to give up more?  It doesn’t seem fair does it?  Well no, it’s not fair.  But then again, when did fair factor into any of this.

Elimination Diet

So how do you know if you have other food intolerances, and how do you get to the bottom of what they might be?  We’ll, you can try an elimination diet.  Eliminate all of the food items that are typically problematic.  That means the big three mentioned above plus sugar, artificial sweeteners, coffee, soy and any food additives.  Do that for 8 – 12 weeks and see if you feel better.  Then you can start adding foods back in one at a time.  My doctor tells me that a food intolerance can cause a reaction up to 4 days after the food is consumed, so you need to wait at least 4 days after adding back an eliminated food before adding another one.  Here is what WebMD has to say about the elimination diet

Yeah I know, sounds like fun doesn’t it!  I thought giving up gluten was hard, but I think eggs are harder.  There are eggs in almost everything; mayonnaise, most breads.  I found when I gave up gluten, eggs were a go to healthy meal and now I had to find a substitute for those.  Here is a pretty comprehensive list of egg substitutes you can use in cooking.  Also, Julie Daniluk in her book, Meals That Heal Inflammation, has a detailed approach to figuring out what foods might be causing problems and several recipes and ideas of what you can eat during your elimination period.

Food Intolerance Testing

Another approach is to have food intolerance testing done.  This is different from the allergy scratch test you may be familiar with.   This is a simple blood test and depending on the lab, they test for antibodies to between 70 and 200 different foods.  Here is a pamphlet for one of the providers in Canada just so you can see what it looks like.  The only challenge might be to get your doctor to order it for you.  Many conventional doctors don’t acknowledge the many issues that food can cause.  You may have better luck with an alternative healthcare provider like a naturopath.  Anyway, I didn’t have much luck with the elimination diet approach so I had the blood test done and got some pretty interesting results.  Not only did the big 3 show up, I’m also intolerant to green beans, kidney beans, asparagus, pineapple and papaya. Ha, who knew?  But the good news is, since avoiding all of these things I am feeling much better.

But there’s more.  Yep.  We’ve talked about Celiac and heredity right?  We’ll it extends to other food intolerances too.  My beautiful 19 year old daughter has struggled with eczema most of her life, but in the last year and a half it’s gotten much worse.  My theory is that a bout with mono had something to do with it.  None the less, we had food intolerance testing done and guess what...the big three.  Once again, many visits to the conventional clinic yielded only another prescription for hydro-cortisone cream and advice to stay moisturized and avoid harsh cleaners.  After all, ‘eczema is chronic you know.  It will never be cured, it can only be managed.’  So we found a doctor who practices a combination of eastern and western medicine.  He ordered the food intolerance test and even though she tested negative for Celiac disease a while back, the test showed an intolerance to gluten as well as, you guessed it, dairy and eggs along with several other things.  Avoiding the problem foods helps, but she still struggles.  Imagine being 19 years old, in university and having to avoid three of the most ubiquitous food items in the western diet.  But she’s doing it.  I’m so proud of her.