• Beyond A Gluten-Free Diet: Integrative Treatment for Celiac Disease

    by Dr. Payal Bhandari
    on Aug 8th, 2017

Most health-conscious Americans strive to follow the dietary guidelines published by government health professionals, based on the latest discoveries made in the field of nutrition science. Daily 6-8 servings of grains, with half of them coming from whole grain sources such as wheat, is a relatively straightforward recommendation and easy to accomplish in the United States.  Most consumers would rightfully assume that they are doing their very best by following the national dietary suggestions, yet many are surprised when instead of feeling fantastic, their sense of well-being doesn't improve, or they experience rapidly worsening symptoms.


The problem is about 1% of Americans are facing severe health problems as a result of following the current national dietary guidelines and suffering from a debilitating disease, called celiac, that is triggered precisely by their wheat intake. The reason is gluten, primarily in wheat and to lesser degree in barley, and rye, is difficult to digest for most leading to significant digestive problems, nutrient absorption issues, and high levels of systemic inflammation.  

What Is Celiac Disease?

Celiac disease is a common hereditary inflammatory disorder, affecting a significant amount of people in the U.S. The culprit is always gluten, a protein that is found in the most commonly consumed grains, such as wheat, rye, or barley, leading to an autoimmune reaction of the body. By perceiving this foreign protein as a threat, an immune response is generated by the immune system, causing inflammation of the small intestine, eventually making nutrient absorption difficult, if not impossible.


The consequences may be devastating. Digestive health is impacted and if left undiagnosed and untreated, the disease could lead to various other serious disorders, such as neurological problems, anemia, osteoporosis, mood disorders, multiple vitamin deficiencies, or even infertility. Finding out about this complex disease is of vital importance as early as possible in order to avoid the development of additional health-damaging problems.

Celiac Disease Symptoms

Interestingly, many people don't experience noticeable symptoms early on, and even when signs emerge, these may not give accurate information about the disease and its severity.


While there are possibly hundreds of associated symptoms, the most common ones typically are:


Integrative Treatment for Celiac Disease

Currently, there are no known cures to heal this disorder. The primary goal of integrative treatment is to eliminate symptoms and strengthen the immune system altogether. The key to managing this disease lies within the gut. You can take following steps to treat celiac disease with integrative methods.  It is best to work with an integrative physician to optimize your treatment and have it customized to you.


1. Gluten-Free Diet

Consuming a strictly gluten-free, fresh foods diet is the foundation of disease management since the digestive system is unable to tolerate any amount of gluten. There are many other whole grains, such as millet, buckwheat, quinoa, brown rice, and amaranth, to choose from.

This task may seem daunting and confusing at first, but it needn't be so: today most grocery stores carry plenty of gluten-free options, making the transition relatively easy and pain-free.

While there are many gluten-free food options available in American grocery stores, many of these are processed foods. Simply swapping out gluten-based products for gluten-free ones is not going to repair your immune system. For example, many of these products are made from white rice which is often tainted in the toxin arsenic. This is why it is important to not only eat gluten-free, but to make healthy gluten-free choices.

2. Nutrient-Rich Food Choices

The second most important element of disease management is to introduce nutrient-dense fresh foods into your daily diet. Fresh dark green leafy vegetables, avocados, and beans are the best choices. They are packed with much-needed vitamins and minerals to help to restore the malnourished cells of your body and aid it in its recovery.

3. Healing the Gut

While eliminating gluten and replacing it with nutritious food is already extremely beneficial for the gut, a couple of extra measures can be taken to ensure that the small intestine returns to its proper functioning order.

Pre- and probiotics, carefully selected by your integrative physician are a valuable part of the healing journey, along with food choices that contain healthy and gut-friendly bacteria. These include fermented vegetables and certain beans which are useful aids in the treatment of serious digestive disorders.

4. Supplementation

Aside from probiotics, digestive enzymes are also beneficial in the treatment of celiac disease and helping with the absorption of essential nutrients from food.  

The integrative treatment for celiac disease wouldn't be complete without your integrative physician regularly monitoring various essential vitamin levels, inflammatory markers, and toxin overload through ordering blood work. It is also critical to monitor for other autoimmune diseases which those with celiac disease are highly at risk for (i.e, diabetes, Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, premature ovarian failure).

5. Stress Management

It is important to keep in mind that celiac disease is extremely responsive to stress, which — along with physical exhaustion — may induce the flare up and aggravation of your symptoms.

For this reason, proper stress management is crucial and can make a world of a difference in your quality of life over time.


Dr. Payal Bhandari, M.D. is a well-known integrative physician who specializes in celiac disease and other autoimmune disorders. She is passionate about finding the root cause of your ailment and providing a personalized treatment which drives the right health outcomes for you.

Contact Dr. Payal Bhandari, M.D. today to  make an appointment and learn more about integrative treatments for celiac disease.

Author Dr. Payal Bhandari Dr. Payal Bhandari M.D. is a leading practitioner of integrative and functional medicine in San Francisco.

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