Avoiding Nutritional Deficiencies in a Gluten-Free Diet

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I was watching an episode of one of my favorite shows, Parenthood, and the topic of wheat allergy came up for one of the children. The solution: eliminating wheat. However, when you eliminate wheat, the risk of nutritional deficiencies may occur, especially if there is inadequate variety in the diet.

Celiac disease is an immune reaction to a protein in wheat, called gluten. If left untreated, malabsorption may occur, also leading to deficiencies in iron, magnesium, B vitamins and fiber. By eliminating gluten (rye, oats, wheat, barley and spelt), most symptoms are alleviated. However, even after going gluten free, some individuals with celiac still experience chronic diarrhea, which can impact nutritional status. 

Anyone on a gluten-free diet should be careful about the following possible nutritional deficiencies:

Fiber: Signs of deficiency may include constipation and increased cholesterol levels. Make sure to increase intake of fruits and vegetables, and non-gluten grains. If constipation is still a problem, adding a fiber supplement should help. You should be aiming for a minimum of 25 grams of fiber per day.

Magnesium: Signs of deficiency may include fatigue, muscle pain, anxiety, and sleep issues. Eating leafy greens, nuts, seeds, beans and legumes can get help with magnesium levels.

B Vitamins: Signs of deficiency may include anemia, fatigue, weakness, constipation, loss of appetite, weight loss, numbness and tingling in hands and feet, poor memory, and depression. Good sources of a variety of B vitamins include dairy, whole non-gluten grains, nuts, seeds, leafy green veggies, and beans and legumes. A B-complex supplement may also help improve well being in those on a gluten-free diet.

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October 2011
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