Today’s article explores how implementing a ketogenic diet can support those living with celiac disease. Of course, going gluten-free is a necessity, but now might also going low carb help you thrive? Find out below.
Celiac Disease vs. Ketosis
Celiac Disease is when the consumption of gluten triggers a person’s immune system to attack itself, in other words: a severe gluten allergy 1. Gluten is a protein found in various grains, including wheat, barley, rye, spelt, and kamut. For those living with Celiac Disease, avoiding these glutenous grains is necessary.>
On the other hand, ketosis is a dietary choice that involves high fat, moderate protein, and strict carbohydrate restriction. Typically, a keto diet consists of consuming 55-75% of your calories from fat, 20-35% from protein, and less than 10% from carbohydrates 2.
With a very low carb intake, the body switches from using glucose as its main energy source to using ketones, which come from fat. Since grains are predominantly carbs, most people following a strict ketogenic diet will most likely be gluten-free. However, those on a gluten-free diet typically aren’t keto since many gluten-free foods (including flowers like sorghum, quinoa, and buckwheat) and many starchy vegetables and fruits contain too many sugars to work in a ketogenic diet.
Gluten is a protein responsible for the elastic texture of dough, and it acts as a binder in many foods 3. For this reason, it is often added to packaged food as a binder, so be mindful that simply because something is keto does not mean it is gluten-free, nor that it isn’t being processed in the same facility as gluten-containing products.
Going Keto To Support Celiac Disease
Whether you’re a diagnosed celiac, have a specific wheat allergy, or have a non-celiac gluten sensitivity, eliminating gluten from your diet will support your overall wellbeing. Implementing a total ketogenic diet is typically easier for those who are living gluten-free because they are already used to eliminating such commonly consumed comfort foods in the name of their health and wellbeing.
The benefits of going keto include:
Healing the Gut
Many people diagnosed with celiac disease have a long history of gut-related issues rooted in years, if not decades, of consuming gluten prior to knowing about their allergy. A ketogenic diet can help the gut in various ways, firstly because by reducing the supply of fermentable carbohydrates, you starve inflammatory overgrowths and calibrate the gut towards healing. This can help resolve mild and severe issues, including Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth (SIBO) 4.
In the long run, a low-carb diet can help intestinal permeability, also known as leaky gut. Intestinal permeability is when the gut lining (which should be tight) begins to loosen. As a result, a leaky gut may actually be the root cause of gluten intolerance for some people, especially those who have been consuming conventional grains sprayed with glyphosate 5. Permeable gut-wall lining allows particles to enter the bloodstream that can cause a similar antibody reaction to a Celiac gluten reaction.
Increased intestinal permeability has been associated with autoimmune conditions, including type 1 diabetes, Crohn’s disease, and inflammatory skin disorders 6. Whether or not your gluten intolerance is caused by intestinal permeability, various symptoms associated with celiac disease can be supported by going keto 7.
Regulating Glucose Levels
Keeping balanced blood sugars is a vital part of whole-body health. When we consume large amounts of carbs, this prompts the body to release insulin. Chronic insulin release blunts the receptors and can eventually lead to insulin resistance and even Type 2 Diabetes 8.
Since a keto diet is a low-carb diet, this offers natural blood sugar regulation. The keto diet has also been linked with improved insulin sensitivity 9. Insulin sensitivity and generally regulated blood sugars have many health benefits, including healthy weight management, better brain and cognitive health, fewer cravings, more stable energy and mood, and less risk of disease 10.
Healing Overlapping Diagnoses
It is estimated that 83% of the 3 million Americans living with celiac disease are undiagnosed or misdiagnosed 11. This is partly due to the complicated symptoms that present themselves with celiac disease and how overlapping they are with various other diagnoses. Symptoms such as abdominal pain, bloating, and diarrhea is hallmarks of both illnesses. One of the common overlapping diagnoses is Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), which also affects the digestive tract 12.
There is evidence that consuming a keto diet has a beneficial impact on those suffering from IBS, which shares many parallels to celiac disease as a diagnosis 13. Being able to support overall gut health and alleviate and reverse symptoms that may be influencing your health (either directly related to a gluten allergy or not) can bring about more clarity when it comes to your diagnoses.
Where there is disease, there is inflammation, and a ketogenic diet helps eradicate inflammation in various ways 14. It eliminates an enormous list of foods that trigger inflammation in the body. This includes grains, legumes, and refined sugar, which are often associated with increased inflammation in the body 15. Giving the body a break from these inflammatory foods will help allow the body to heal.
The complete mechanisms of how ketosis decreases inflammation aren completely understood but science suggests it may include the production improving insulin resistance and reducing body fat14.
Supplement Support for Celiac
Although Celiac Disease forces individuals to cut out all glutenous grains from their diet, there may be a reason to reduce all forms of carbohydrates dramatically. The ketogenic diet has many benefits for those navigating celiac disease, including gut-healing, regulating glucose levels, healing overlapping diseases, and reducing inflammation.
1 “Coeliac Disease.” NHS Choices, NHS, https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/coeliac-disease/.
2 Ketogenic Diet - StatPearls - NCBI Bookshelf. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK499830/.
3 “What Is Gluten?” Celiac Disease Foundation, https://celiac.org/gluten-free-living/what-is-gluten/.
4 “Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth.” UCLA Health, https://proceedings.med.ucla.edu/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/Morris-A200121BM-1RKO-BLM-edited.pdf.
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6 Mu, Qinghui, et al. “Leaky Gut as a Danger Signal for Autoimmune Diseases.” Frontiers in Immunology, vol. 8, 2017, https://doi.org/10.3389/fimmu.2017.00598.
7 Lee, Sung Hee. “Intestinal permeability regulation by tight junction: implication on inflammatory bowel diseases.” Intestinal research vol. 13,1 (2015): 11-8. doi:10.5217/ir.2015.13.1.11
8 Wilcox, Gisela. “Insulin and Insulin Resistance.” The Clinical Biochemist. Reviews, U.S. National Library of Medicine, May 2005, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1204764/#__ffn_sectitle.
9 Yuan, Xiaojie, et al. “Effect of the Ketogenic Diet on Glycemic Control, Insulin Resistance, and Lipid Metabolism in Patients with T2DM: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis.” Nutrition & Diabetes, vol. 10, no. 1, 2020, https://doi.org/10.1038/s41387-020-00142-z.be
10 “Benefits of Insulin Sensitivity.” CentreSpringMD, 3 June 2021, https://centrespringmd.com/4-benefits-of-insulin-sensitivity-and-how-to-improve-yours/.
11 “Celiac Disease: Fast Facts.” Beyond Celiac, 7 June 2021, https://www.beyondceliac.org/celiac-disease/facts-and-figures/.
12 Sanders, David. “Irritable Bowel Syndrome and Coeliac Disease.” The Lancet, vol. 359, no. 9315, 2002, pp. 1436–1437., https://doi.org/10.1016/s0140-6736(02)08378-2.
13 Austin, Gregory, et al. “A Very Low Carbohydrate Diet Provides Adequate Relief of Symptoms and Improves Quality of Life in Overweight and Obese Individuals with Diarrhea-Predominant Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS-D).” American Journal of Gastroenterology, vol. 103, 2008, https://doi.org/10.14309/00000434-200809001-01169.
14 Ciaffi, Jacopo, et al. “The Effect of Ketogenic Diet on Inflammatory Arthritis and Cardiovascular Health in Rheumatic Conditions: A Mini Review.” Frontiers in Medicine, vol. 8, 2021, https://doi.org/10.3389/fmed.2021.792846.
15 Frazier, Thomas H et al. “Gut microbiota, intestinal permeability, obesity-induced inflammation, and liver injury.” JPEN. Journal of parenteral and enteral nutrition vol. 35,5 Suppl (2011): 14S-20S. doi:10.1177/0148607111413772