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Following a strict gluten-free diet can lead to nutrient deficiencies. This is how dietary supplements can help.
Following a 100% gluten-free diet is a requirement for individuals diagnosed with celiac disease and an option worth trying for those with suspected gluten sensitivity. For Americans eating gluten-free, this diet tends to substitute nutritionally lackluster white-rice flour, potato starch, and corn-based starches for traditional wheat-based flours. Fortification is not required of gluten-free foods, National Foundation for Celiac Awareness vice president Jennifer North further points out, so such nutrients as iron, folate, vitamin B12, and fiber are generally lacking.
Amy Jones, MS, RD, LD, chief clinical dietitian, Mary Rutan Hospital, says that following a strict gluten-free diet can lead to additional deficiencies of vitamin D, magnesium, zinc, and calcium. “Because many gluten-free foods are not fortified the way that gluten-containing foods are,” she says, “and because patients may have other issues, like lactose intolerance, most celiac patients benefit from supplementation.” She adds that the type and duration of supplementation should be addressed in a conversation between patient, physician, and dietitian.
Because it can take a long time before someone with celiac disease is accurately diagnosed, it’s likely patients may have suffered from nutrient deficiencies for some time. “Folks who typically follow a gluten-free diet have gone through years of trying to figure out if they’re actually gluten-free. As a result, there can be lots of damage to the small intestine and intestinal villi specifically, making it more difficult to absorb nutrients from their food years later,” says Zach Rachins. Rachins co-owns CeliAct, a dietary supplement brand whose product is designed to help support the health and fill the nutrient gaps of those on gluten-free diets.
“Gluten-Free Diet Support aims to fill the most common nutrient gaps through highly bioavailable forms of these nutrients in just two small capsules per day,” he adds.
Rachins says that the market for supplements like his company’s is definitely growing. “Over time, people that may have issues with gluten have made it much more of a priority to try a multivitamin and specifically a gluten-free multivitamin catered to them. Since we got started five years ago, lots of other companies have started to either market their supplements as gluten-free (who hadn’t done so before), and lots of new companies have launched supplements specifically for gluten-free folks. Demand has definitely increased over time, and it’s great to see so many options today.”
Photo credit: Designed to help gluten-free consumers support their health, CeliAct’s Gluten-Free Diet Support supplement helps maintain energy and digestive health by way of ingredients like probiotics, vitamin D, iron, folic acid, B vitamins, “and all of the other critical nutrients you are most likely to be deficient in,” the brand says. Photo courtesy of CeliAct.