Tips and Ideas for OPTIMAL Healing!

Get your villi healthy, like these!

I remember learning in my Care & Prevention of Athletic Injury class at university that you can’t actually SPEED healing or make anything heal FASTER, but there are things that you can do in order to OPTIMIZE the healing process.

The same can be said for healing the gut after a Celiac Disease diagnosis.

As I’ve heard repeatedly, “Everyone is different”.  Oh…and, “Be patient”. 😉

Some people heal quickly, some people take years.  So, no matter what is happening, we are told not to worry.  That’s fair, I guess.  Worrying will have no positive effect on the outcome.

But there are things we can do in order to help our bodies heal optimally, which is great.  Of course, if you have no symptoms or see no symptom improvement with any of these “things”, then it’s hard to know whether it’s really working.  And, especially because everyone heals differently, if you suddenly are “healed”, it is hard to know whether you are simply one of those fast healers, or if any of these things really helped.

Yeah, apparently I’m feeling a bit negative today LOL  All I’m trying to say is, there are no guarantees any of these things will work.  So, especially if there is a tip you simply can’t afford to try, don’t fret.  As long as you are eating completely and strictly gluten-free, you will (theoretically) heal, eventually (so they say).  However, if you are looking for things to potentially optimize the regrowth of those little damaged villi in your gut, give some of these a try J

NOTE:  I am not a doctor!  Please consult with your doctor before trying any of these.  I recommend blood testing before supplementing with any vitamins/minerals so that you don’t waste your money!  Many of these concepts are “CONTROVERSIAL”…many of them also tend to overlap a bit.  I struggle with talking about them because a lot of this stuff isn’t scientifically proven.  Much evidence is anecdotal.  By all means, don’t listen to me if you disagree.  But let’s try to keep it “friendly”, please J

SIDENOTE:  Many of these suggestions are based on the premise that most people with Celiac Disease end up with a “Leaky Gut”.  In a healthy gut, food is completely digested and passed.  In a leaky gut, there may be damage to the barriers in the intestinal lining coupled with food that does not get fully digested, and thus, large particles of food end up being transported into the bloodstream, where they are seen as foreign invaders.  The immune system is trigged and launches an attack, which can create many other symptoms (which can explain why it may seem like you are reacting to EVERYTHING you eat).  Thus, some of these suggestions are geared towards healing the Leaky Gut.  Keep in mind, this is pretty complex stuff, and I have only very quickly summarized.

LAST NOTE:  Yes, some of this gets a little science-y.  I put the important bits in bold, for those just looking for things to try.  If you’re anything like me, you want to know why.  I do my best to simply and concisely explain why these things may work.  Feel free to skip the explanations! 😉

  • Eliminate dairy.  Lactose/Casein intolerances are very commonly linked with Celiac Disease.  Lactase, the enzyme that breaks down lactose, is found in the lining of the small intestine.  Well, guess what?  As many of you know, with Celiac Disease, it is the villi lining the small intestine that get damaged.  It makes a lot of sense, then, that if the lining of your small intestince is damaged, you may have a hard time breaking down lactose.  Consuming dairy when your gut is trying to heal can cause added stress on the body and can also cause inflammation.  The good news?  Many are eventually able to reintroduce dairy to their diet at a later date.  While I was super reluctant to let go of my cheese and yogurt, I found going dairy-free to be somewhat helpful in reducing certain gastric symptoms.  I think it was about 5 months ago that I eliminated dairy and already I seem to tolerate it again, though I still avoid it for the most part, as it has been known to cause inflammation in the body.  My favorite dairy substitutions include coconut milk, almond milk, goat milk, and rice milk.


  • Glutamine Load.  This one is probably a controversial one, but I HONESTLY found it made a difference, so I will promote it.  It was recommended to me by a fellow personal trainer back in Victoria.  Glutamine is one of 20 amino acids (building blocks of protein), and though it is not considered an essential amino acid, there is some speculation that it can become essential in certain circumstances, including injury, intense athletic training, and…here it is…gastrointestinal disorders.  Glutamine, as all amino acids, is active in protein synthesis and several other functions.  It is most readily accepted/taken up by the intestines.  It is most abundantly stored in the muscles.  To me, it makes sense that it can be helpful in Celiac Disease, especially if you have experienced muscle wasting through malabsorption.  It is thought that glutamine can help protect the lining of the intestines and mucosal barrier.  It has even been used to aid recovery after surgeries.  So, there does seem to be some research on the beneficial effects of glutamine, but perhaps not on “glutamine loading”.  I, however, think the loading part can be helpful.  Charles Poliquin, a personal training guru, thinks so, too.  Of course, his reason for suggesting this to his clients is to aid in muscle building, but he does mention how glutamine can, in a sense, “seal” the intestinal lining, and also that glutamine has a positive effect on the immune system.  The protocol?  80 grams of glutamine per day for FIVE DAYS.  Yes, that’s a LOT.  That’s the point.  But it’s only for five days.  It is best to take around 10 grams at a time, but I am bad for medicinal timings, so I took 40 grams in the morning, and 40 grams at night.  Buy the powder, not the pills.  After the five days at 80 grams, you can go back to the recommended 10 grams per day.  See if you notice any changes after the five day load, then continue the 10 grams per day for about a month and see how you feel.  You may not need to continue it, or you may find it makes a difference on a daily basis.  I am out right now, but I also found a difference when I took it after an intense workout.  It is best taken on an empty stomach first thing in the morning and right before bed.  Of course, make sure your glutamine is gluten-free.  NOW Foods makes a gluten-free version, and you can see a screen shot of the label here.


  • Chew your food and eat slowly.  This one is kind of a no-brainer, but it is worth mentioning.  Eating slowly will help minimize bloat/distension that can occur from swallowing air.  Chewing your food thoroughly can help out the digestive process.  Specifically, carbs (grains, fruit, veg, and other sugars) begin digesting in the mouth.  Give your body a break by digesting/breaking down your food as much as possible before sending it on to the stomach!


  • Take Probiotics.  Most research has been conducted on animals, and it is important to note that the data can’t be extrapolated to different strains of probiotics, nor from one disease to another.  However, many testimonials do exist, and many doctors and patients swear by probiotic treatment.  Here are some of the promising potential effects of probiotics:  protective action at gastric mucosal barrier, improvement/reduction of paracellular permeability (tight junctions controlling what passes through the gut), nurturing and growth at colonic mucosa through stimulation of cell reproduction, protective action on mucus of the GI tract including amount and nature of mucos secretion, aid in development of gut immunity system, and effect on production of inflammatory mediators.  The key is to take a broad/full-spectrum probiotic with a high number of CFUs (Cell Forming Units).  For example, Progressive makes a gluten-free variety that contains 6 human strains and supplies 70 billion CFU.  My favorite is BioK+, as it is a liquid probiotic and comes in a gluten, dairy, and soy free variety.  However, it is pretty pricey, so maybe consider using it for the first month to kick things off, and then switch to a more affordable variety.  Take your probiotics daily, making sure to follow instructions.


  • Try Digestive Enzymes.  This topic seems to be much debated.  The body is in a state of disease when it has gone a long time before Celiac Disease diagnosis.  I believe that the body is quite exhausted and in “survival mode”.  For this reason, I think digestive enzymes could be helpful, even though our body is SUPPOSED to supply all the enzymes necessary (it seems clear our bodies are not doing what they are SUPPOSED to).  If foods are completely digested, they will be less/un-likely to cross through the leaky gut into the bloodstream and cause a reaction.  This is sort of how Lactaid works for someone with lactose intolerance.  It provides the necessary enzymes to break down the lactose so that it can be digested.  Undigested food can cause all sorts of symptoms, including gas, stomach distension, and in some cases, allergic reactions.  We consume carbohydrates, proteins, and fats, and there are specific enzymes for each.  If you think you are having trouble digesting, try a multi/full spectrum digestive enzyme that contains enzymes for all three food categories.  For example, lipases and proteases break down fats and proteins, respectively, but there are many different types of carbohydrates, hence many carbohydrate enzymes, including cellulose, amylase, sucrose, and lactase.  Keep in mind that some companies try to market gluten sensitivities and those with Celiac Disease by calling the product something to do with easing gluten digestion.  If you look closely at the label, most contain a blend of proteases, amylases/glucomylases, and possibly lipases and are not really different from other digestive enzyme supplements.  You simply cannot supplement an enzyme that will help you digest gluten, so don’t get your hopes up.  There is no cure (at this point) for Celiac Disease, other than a strict gluten-free diet.  Enzymes will not allow you to eat gluten!  Most enzymes need to be taken with a meal.  If you wait to take enzymes until you have symptoms, the temperature in your stomach will likely be high enough to degrade the enzymes, rendering them inactive.


  • Consider a yeast cleanse/candida diet.  This comes back to the leaky gut and disturbed/depleted healthy bacteria that tends to go hand in hand with untreated Celiac Disease.  If both these factors are present, it is extremely easy and even likely for yeast overgrowth to occur in the body.  Interestingly, many of the symptoms discussed in regards to candida overgrowth are very similar to those occurring with Celiac Disease.  From what I’ve heard, it is difficult for doctors to test for candida overgrowth, as it can occur in many different areas in the body.  I’m pretty sure the candida saliva/spit test is a bunch of crap.  There is a questionnaire you can take, however, keep in mind that, as I said, many of the symptoms are similar to those for untreated Celiac Disease.  In fact, I just took the test and my score was 373, with a score of 85 or higher considered “SEVERE”.  While I do feel somewhat better on a low-sugar diet, I have tried a cleanse and the candida diet in the past, and my symptoms seem to remain the same.  Again, everyone is different.  A strong probiotic may also assist in cleansing any yeast problems.  Options include a yeast detox kit, which generally contain some herb al supplements/antifungals to assist in cleansing the system of yeast.  Most of these kits “recommend” avoiding certain foods or, in effect, a “candida diet” for the duration of the cleanse (usually two weeks).  Then there’s the actual “Candida Diet”, which entails a series of steps.  It comes in many forms; I am merely providing one link.  You are free to do what you like, but I’m a little wary of the cleanse phase on this site.  Of course, this is only my opinion.  If you have no prior commitments and a good hold on your blood sugar, then, by all means, go for it.  I’ve been so desperate lately that I’m considering a bowel prep, so who am I to talk?  However, a cleanse as intense as this can be very tough to stick to and you won’t have much energy.  If you have any blood sugar issues, definitely steer clear.  Many people notice improvements simply by following the “foods to avoid” list for 3-5 weeks.  Of course, the improvements may not be specifically yeast-related (ex. many people just feel better eating less sugar, alcohol, and processed foods).


  • Eat less packaged/processed gluten-free foods.  Anything that is packaged, unless out of a dedicated facility, has the potential risk of being contaminated.  Even if it has been tested, even if it is less than 20ppm, the more processed/packaged gluten-free foods you eat, the more contamination you ingest.  Your gut is usually pretty sensitive in the beginning, so why not remove as much as possible?  Stick to the basics…fresh meat, eggs, veggies, fruits.  As for grains, Lundberg is a rice company that has a completely gluten-free facility.  GoGo Quinoa is also a dedicated facility.  I’m just naming a couple, in order to help keep it simple.  However, many people find they feel better going completely grain-free.


  • Dine out as little as possible.  For similar reasons to above: Cross-contamination!  Again, unless the place is “dedicated”, if you are eating at a restaurant that also handles gluten in their kitchen, the risk is HIGH…way higher than eating gluten-free packaged/processed foods.  Even in non-dedicated facilities that really seem to “get it”, many people still get sick on occasion.  Pizza places are the WORST for this!


  • Try some herbal supplements.  There are many herbs that claim to help with intestinal issues.  Mucelages reduce irritation and inflammation, soothe and protect, and reduce peristalsis (contractions) in the mucus membrane.  Examples of Mucelages include slippery elm, marshmallow root, and licorice root (if you have any blood pressure issues, be sure to get deglycyrrhizinated licorice root!).  Try to find these in tincture form, as they will be easier to absorb.  Simply making tea from licorice root may not offer enough concentration of the herb to make a difference, which is why supplementation is suggested.  Digestive Relaxants reduce acidity, bloating, and distension, plus have antiseptic and antimicrobial properties.  Examples of Digestive Relaxants include chamomile, lemon balm, and peppermint.  Carminatives either prevent formation of gas or facilitate expulsion of gas in the gastrointestinal tract (HOT! LOL).  Examples of Carminatives include fennel, caraway, coriander, and turmeric.  Again, simply using these spices in your curries or other recipes will likely not provide a high enough concentration to create much of a noticeable effect.  Supplementation is recommended (ensure gluten-free!).


  • Don’t chew gum.  I was a long-time gum chewer, even despite my issues with TMJ.  But no more!  Someone mentioned to me how chewing gum can “confuse” your stomach.  When we put food in our mouths, our body prepares to receive it by releasing stomach acids into the stomach.  Yet, when we chew gum, the stomach never receives food.  It just seems like unnecessary stimulation of the digestive system.  I know there is some truth to this, as chewing gum is encouraged after abdominal surgery, in order to get the digestive system active.  It can also create gas through inadvertently swallowing more air.


  • Strengthen your deep core muscles.  This won’t help you heal your villi, however, the deep core muscles (pelvic floor) can become quite weakened and stretched out after years of inflammation and straining.  Check out some pilates online or at your local rec centre to ensure you engage in proper form…it makes all the difference in the world!  My best explanation is to breathe air deeply into your belly so that it balloons out.  Then, as you breathe out, expel all your air with intention, not “sucking in”, but drawing your belly button, as if you were bracing your abdominal muscles for a punch in the gut.  Hold for about 10 seconds, then release, inhale, and repeat.  You can do this sitting, lying down, standing in line at the grocery store!  As you improve, you’ll be able to keep this GENTLE tension while you breathe in and out naturally, which will help support your spine and posture.  Add a kegel to this practice for best results (yes, guys, too!).  This small contraction should be the foundation for any movement you do, especially any time you are going to lift anything.  Some people do this habitually, without even noticing.  For others, it takes practice.  And for those who have damage in the area, it can get fatigued very easily.  When I get bloated, inflamed, and distended, I find I am no longer able to hold this contraction.  It actually becomes painful and feels like my belly and organs are just “hanging”.  I have definitely seen improvements with practicing this exercise, though, so give it a shot!


  • Supplement with vitamins/minerals.  I can’t tell you what you should supplement.  It would be best if you can find out whether or not you’re even deficient in anything.  I know for many that is not an option.  There are certain vitamins/minerals that are commonly deficient in people with Celiac Disease.  Vitamins A, D, E, and K are fat-soluble vitamins.  Though these are commonly deficient, it is important to keep in mind that they are fat-soluble.  This means, if you ingest too much of these vitamins, you will not simply “pee them out”, and toxicity is possible, so mind your doses.  Many people find it helpful to supplement B-vitamins, especially B-12.  I found B-12 injections to be most effective, but if you’re doing this on your own, PLEASE make sure you YouTube how to do it properly!  Vitamin C may be helpful and is fairly safe.  Iron, calcium, and magnesium are the most commonly deficient minerals.  If you are unsure whether or not you are deficient in any vitamins/minerals, your best bet is to eat a balanced diet and perhaps consider a high quality (gluten-free) multi-vitamin.  Consider chewable or liquid to provide optimal absorption.


  • Keep a food and symptom diary/log.  It is quite common for people with Celiac Disease to have other food intolerances, or even allergies.  Keeping a log of what you eat and how you feel can assist you in recognizing which foods may be problematic.

Well, that’s all I can think of right now, though I know there is much more.  This post has been long in the making (still having formatting issues, despite re-typing the ENTIRE thing LOL), so I figure I should just post it already and if I think of anything else I will come back and add it in!  Of course, feel free to comment with things that were helpful for YOU!

Happy healing…



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Categories: Livin' the Gluten-Free Life!


After countless years of illness and a final plea to my doctor during my third hospital visit in one year, I was told I have Celiac Disease in February 2011, at the age of 29. I have been exploring the world of gluten-free ever since! Of course, Celiac Disease is not the only thing that defines me, though it will be the major topic of this blog. I have also recently graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Kinesiology and a Minor in Psychology, both of which I am finding helpful in coping with this new dietary restriction and lifestyle. If nothing else, my years of university have made me a great researcher! I own a pug named Wilbur, who is my saving grace! Penelope, a Boston/Frenchy mix, is my newest addition. Dogs are precious...a true example of unconditional love. And as for the rest...I love singing, dancing, fitness, health, farm-fresh foods, cooking, learning, nature, laughter (where would I be without laughter?)...and helping others. If this blog can help even one person in any way, I would be honored :)


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