New Research Looks Into the Causes of Obesity with Celiac Disease
A few years ago, symptoms such as abdominal pain, frequent diarrhea and weight loss would set off alarm bells in most doctor’s heads for the possibility of a celiac disease diagnosis. In contrast, it would probably be the last condition on their mind when faced with overweight patients with no evident signs of malnutrition. However, as we learn more about the complexities of celiac disease we find that nowadays many patients present with a wide range of atypical symptoms seemingly unrelated to a disease affecting the digestive tract. One of these symptoms is obesity. Just what is the cause of obesity with celiac disease?
What’s more, not only it’s no longer uncommon for overweight or obese patients to be diagnosed with celiac disease, but a significant number of newly diagnosed celiac patients soon pile up the pounds once they start a gluten free diet. However, this association between increasing weight and celiac disease is a relatively new phenomenon and its clinical implications remain a mystery. At this stage, researchers don’t even agree whether it’s a consequence of the disease or a consequence of the treatment.
Obesity as a consequence of celiac disease: The “compensatory” hypothesis
Our bodies have this amazing ability to find alternative pathways if the original way is blocked. If this theory can be applied to celiac disease patients, it could mean enhanced nutrient absorption in areas of the intestine not severely affected, including changes in the intestinal wall and even increased villous height.
The fact that classic symptoms – including weight loss and malabsorption – are more common in babies and young children, whereas older children and adults are more likely to experience unusual signs seems to point in this direction. After all, this intestinal resilience and flexibility takes some time to develop, leaving very young patients unprotected and at risk of severe malabsorption.
Undoubtedly, this adaptation may be good news for patients at risk of malabsorption, resulting in restored nutrient levels accompanied by an increased energy intake. However, on the other extreme, in “overzealous” bowels, overcompensation could easily lead to excessive weight gain and obesity.
Obesity as a consequence of a gluten free diet: The “metabolic” link
On the other hand, some believe the problem is not the disease but the treatment! In this case, a gluten free diet may be to blame. This is the more common view among physicians. Several studies have shown that almost half the patients starting a gluten-free diet increase weight, particularly if they were already overweight before the diet.
The truth is that a gluten free diet was developed to reduce symptoms associated with celiac disease, not to solve other health issues such as obesity. In fact, it’s possible to follow a strict gluten-free diet in quite an unhealthy manner. Not surprisingly, the poor flavour of some gluten-free foods drives many patients, especially children and teenagers, towards fatty, sugary and highly processed substitutes. This inevitably leads to high energy intake and excess weight gain.
For some patients, however, this may be a losing battle whatever their choices. Even if following healthy options, there is evidence of a deep metabolic link between celiac disease and obesity. Most gluten-free foods cannot maintain high blood glucose levels for many hours, but instead only cause a brief burst after a meal. In addition, in a mechanism as yet to discover, a gluten free diet seems to be able to alter important hunger-regulating hormone levels. As a result, patients are likely to feel hungrier than before and inevitably eat more frequently throughout the day.
If you have experience weight gain with celiac disease you are not alone. For both conditions, a healthy diet is the best solution. As obesity in celiac disease patients becomes more prevalent, it’s essential to start following healthcare plans with appropriate assessments and monitoring by a dietician. Don’t be afraid to ask your doctor/dietician for more information about healthy options, including gluten free multivitamin supplements, before you see your waist expanding!
This original article is made possible by Gluten Free Therapeutics. Our mission is to educate, inform, and provide the most effective nutritional products possible to allow those with celiac disease and serious gluten intolerances to heal their bodies. CeliVites complete line of superior gluten free supplements includes multivitamin/multimineral supplements, iron supplements, and calcium supplements for people living with celiac disease. All CeliVites products are designed to help you heal, restore and rebuild your body, because going gluten free isn’t enough!
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