Celiac disease

My story about the beneficial effects of the AIP diet on celiac disease

8 August 2023

The most well-known autoimmune disease for me is celiac disease, as I developed it at a later age. In this blog, I would like to discuss what celiac disease is, the symptoms often experienced by people with celiac disease, and how the AIP diet has reduced celiac symptoms for me.

What is celiac disease?

Celiac disease is also known as gluten intolerance. It is an autoimmune disease in which the immune system negatively responds to gluten. Gluten is a protein found in wheat, rye, barley, and spelt. When diagnosed with celiac disease, I was instructed to follow a strict gluten-free diet. A healthy person has inflammation values of <7, but at one point, due to damaged intestinal villi, my inflammation values in the intestine were above 70. Fortunately, these values were brought back to a normal level of 'under 7,' and a medical examination revealed that my damaged intestinal villi were regenerating.

The emergence of gluten intolerance

In ancient times, particularly in the Middle Ages, about half of the population in Western Europe had the so-called HLA-DQ2 or HLA-DQ8 gene. The HLA system is a group of proteins on the cell surface involved in regulating the immune system and protecting the body against infections and diseases. People with celiac disease may have certain variants of the HLA-DQ2 or HLA-DQ8 gene, making them susceptible to gluten intolerance. These genes produce specific proteins that help process gluten in the body. If the immune system of someone with these genes recognizes gluten as a foreign substance, it can cause an inflammatory reaction that irritates the small intestine and hinders nutrient absorption. This leads to the body essentially attacking itself, hence why celiac disease is referred to as an autoimmune disease.

Celiac disease symptoms

The symptoms of celiac disease are diverse because our intestines form the basis of our entire digestive system. In the words of the ancient philosopher Hippocrates, "All diseases begin in the gut." Food is our medicine, but if that medicine is not properly absorbed by our intestines, we do not feel well. In short, if you eat something that makes you feel unwell, it has both physical and mental consequences. The most well-known symptoms of celiac disease include:

Abdominal pain and cramps, due to poor nutrient absorption in the intestine.

Bloating, as you may have more food intolerances than just gluten intolerance.

Diarrhea or constipation, as other intolerances besides gluten may be present.

Fatigue and weakness, as your body does not effectively absorb nutrients.

Weight loss, as your body cannot convert nutrients into energy properly.

Anemia, as people with celiac disease often have a leaky gut, also known as "intestinal permeability," which allows unwanted substances, bacteria, viruses, and food particles to enter the bloodstream.

Bone pain or fractures, as incorrect nutrition may prevent proper absorption of vitamins/minerals.

Nausea and vomiting, as the body does not respond well to food.

Skin rashes, as the body rejects the food.

Depression, anxiety, fatigue, and other mental/emotional symptoms, as your body is not receiving the right nutrition.

Gluten-free eating not always the solution

I, too, developed celiac disease at the age of 22. At first, I believed I could recover with a gluten-free diet alone. However, I quickly noticed that I also didn't react well to eating gluten-free products like corn, oats, rice, or buckwheat. Therefore, I tried various diets. Unfortunately, I also discovered through testing that I was allergic to lactose, soy, and legumes. At that point, I didn't know what the right diet was and what I could eat to feel better.

Celiac disease and more allergies in later life

There is a connection between developing celiac disease later in life and allergies. People diagnosed with gluten intolerance later in life often have more allergies than those who receive this diagnosis at a younger age. This is because celiac disease is an autoimmune disease that attacks the body's own tissues instead of external invaders like viruses or bacteria. Inflammation and damage to a more mature intestinal wall may lead to increased sensitivity to other allergies. This is because people with gluten intolerance often have intestinal permeability, allowing viruses/bacteria to enter the bloodstream, which triggers the immune system and can lead to more allergic reactions.

What helped me with celiac disease?

There is no cure for celiac disease; you have to learn to live with its symptoms. I often received this response while experiencing the above gluten intolerance symptoms. Additionally, I felt that everything I ate was draining my energy. I continued to lose weight, felt restless, and my mental well-being did not improve. The diets I tried include Keto, FODMAP, SCD (specific carbohydrate diet), vegan, and vegetarian. However, due to my allergies, I did not respond well to different foods. My energy levels were low, I felt irritable, had a bloated stomach, and experienced digestive problems. Therefore, I searched for a diet that could support me.

The AIP diet and celiac disease

In this search, I came across the so-called "Autoimmune Protocol Paleo" diet. Over the past 50 years, many food products have been processed. This has resulted in people with a sensitive immune system reacting differently to processed or anti-nutrient-rich foods. By avoiding mainly processed foods and consuming more "anti-inflammatory" foods, inflammation levels could be reduced. The AIP diet consisted of these anti-inflammatory foods. Through the AIP diet, I started to feel better physically and mentally. This encouraged me to explore AIP-related recipes to try a wide range of these foods. It turned out well for me because, as mentioned, my previously high inflammation values returned to the normal range, and I felt more fit and healthy. The right nutrition proved to be the right medicine for me. Foods you can for example eat are grass-fed meat and wild-caught fish. Read about these in this text. The AIP diet could also be of service with restoring the gut-brain balance. Read more about this in this text.

A personalized diet

I want to emphasize that the AIP diet is certainly not a "miracle diet." The medical advice of your doctor is always essential as it is tailored to a person/patient's individual symptoms. While I had positive experiences with the AIP diet, another diet may be better and more suitable for someone else. It is recommended to regularly test inflammation levels, vitamins, and minerals medically when searching for the right diet. These elevated inflammatory levels can also be caused by the often poor quality of food within our consumer society. Read more about it in this blog. The goal is to find the right diet when experiencing symptoms, allowing someone to feel well again.

Want to know more?

If you are interested in the AIP diet, you can check the website. Using the Yes/No list, you can independently start the AIP diet. The recipe book will give you a good idea of the AIP diet. If you are more interested in the AIP diet, you can also book a consultation for coaching to pursue a more personalized route within the AIP diet. Let food be the medicine it once was, because happiness lies in your health.