There’s about 15 million people with food allergies in the United States (including nearly 6 million children) and that number has been growing consistently over the past 20 years. Even with food allergies on the rise, many people are still confused about what food allergies are and what they mean for their health.
This is Food Allergy Awareness Week, making it the perfect time to clear up some of the confusion. A big thank you to Pure Encapsulations for partnering with me on this post.
Food allergies occur when your immune system responds to a food that your body mistakenly perceives as a foreign invader. It’s possible to be allergic to just about any food, but the most common food allergies are milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, wheat, soy, fish, and shellfish. Symptoms of a food allergy can manifest in various ways, including anaphylaxis (which can be life-threatening), rash or hives, and even progressive damage to your GI tract.
What is Celiac Disease?
My best friend found out she had celiac disease after completing my 21-Day Nourish program and many of my clients also have the disease. Celiac is an allergy to gluten, a protein found in wheat, barley, and rye. When people with celiac disease consume gluten, they experience an immune system response that damages their gut and causes intestinal inflammation. If you have celiac disease and you keep eating gluten, your immune system forms antibodies that attack the small intestine and damage the absorptive villi that line it. The small intestine is where most nutrient absorption occurs, so when the villi that line the intestines are damaged, the ability to absorb nutrients decreases drastically. Over time, this intestinal damage may cause nutrient deficiencies. Many people live for years with this food allergy without even knowing they have it, so these nutrient deficiencies can go on for decades, causing serious problems throughout the body!
Nutrient Deficiencies to Watch For
Those who can’t tolerate gluten are commonly deficient in iron, calcium, magnesium, zinc, folate, niacin, riboflavin, vitamin B12, and vitamin D. Iron, folate and B12 deficiencies can cause anemia, which is often a diagnosing factor for those with celiac disease. Iron and folate anemias occur because they are absorbed in the upper part of the small intestine, where damage typically occurs early on in the disease. When celiac disease progresses, the lower part of the small intestine can be damaged and cause vitamin B12 deficiency.
How to Support Your Gut Health with a Gluten Allergy or Intolerance
After following a gluten-free diet for a while, the small intestine will start to heal and begin to absorb nutrients properly. That being said, avoiding whole grains may still result in lower vitamin and mineral intake. This might not be the case for everyone, but for some, it is a reality.
If you’re new to a gluten free diet, try to incorporate the following foods into your diet regularly to avoid nutrient deficiencies:
B Vitamins: Leafy greens like spinach, romaine lettuce, kale; sunflower seeds, asparagus, beets, broccoli, black beans, green peas, lentils, mushrooms, cooked spinach, edamame, avocado, broccoli, tuna, salmon, chicken breast
Vitamin B12: All types of meat and fish, eggs
Vitamin D: Sunlight, salmon, sardines, shrimp, cod
Vitamin A: Green leafy vegetables (spinach, turnip greens), sweet potato, carrots, red bell peppers
Vitamin E: Green leafy vegetables (spinach, mustard greens, turnip greens), sunflower seeds, hemp seeds, almonds, hazelnuts
Vitamin K: Green leafy vegetables (kale, spinach, Swiss chard, collard greens), broccoli, Brussels sprouts
Iron: all types of meat, lentils, edamame, organic tofu, hemp seeds
Magnesium: Leafy greens like spinach, romaine lettuce, Swiss chard, kale; avocado, potato, pumpkin seeds, hemp seeds, chia seeds, sunflower seeds, black beans, almonds, cashews, peanuts
Should you take supplements?
If you aren’t able to tolerate gluten you may have nutrient deficiencies from damage to your intestines that has led to compromised absorption. While in a healing state, you may benefit from supplementation. You may also benefit from supplementation if your diet is lacking in the nutrients needed to support optimal health.
When considering supplementation, it’s important to note that not all supplement lines are gluten-free! Many supplements contain wheat or corn-based “fillers” and may also include other allergens like egg or dairy protein. Make sure you read the ingredient list to rule out any potential contamination.
What I recommend
Many of my clients benefit from a gluten-free multivitamin or B complex a few times per week, depending on their dietary intake.
One of my favorites is Pure Encapsulations. Pure Encapsulations is a professional line of supplements that are certified gluten-free and free from wheat, dairy, eggs, peanuts, trans fats and hydrogenated oils, artificial flavors, colors, and sweeteners, and GMOs, making them a great choice for people with food allergies and sensitivities (and anyone looking for high quality vitamins).
Pure Encapsulations is also super transparent about their quality standards and manufacturing process, so you know exactly what you’re putting in your body, which I really appreciate. They also dismantle, sterilize, and inspect all equipment before each production run, so they can ensure that cross-contamination is never an issue for customers with food allergies and sensitivities.
A few of my favorite products from their line are those that help with overall wellness and gut health. Of course, there’s my Pure Top 5. These are my go-to’s. But with celiac disease you may want to consider GI Integrity for some gut healing glutamine.
I recommend you speak with a Registered Dietitian or healthcare professional before starting a supplement regimen so you can accurately identify what nutrients may be missing from your diet and to determine the best supplement plan for your unique needs. I’m happy to help! Just get in touch here.