FeaturesDec/Jan 2015 Issue

Defend Against Deficiency: Celiacs' Guide to Vitamins and Minerals

Iron and vitamin B complex are important nutrients your body doesn’t manufacture.

Photo by istock/thinkstock

The majority of people diagnosed with celiac disease and living gluten-free apparently are not totally healing. New research indicates that “the small intestines of up to 60 percent of [celiac] adults never completely heal, especially when adherence to the diet is less than optimal,” according to The University of Chicago Center for Celiac Disease.

Thus, celiac disease remains a mal-absorptive disease post-diagnosis. Those with celiac disease are at risk for vitamin and mineral deficiencies, particularly vitamin B complex and iron deficiencies. Since our bodies don’t manufacture these nutrients, it’s imperative that we get sufficient amounts from our food, beverages and appropriate supplements.

Iron and vitamin B are mandatory for optimal health. Iron is used in the production of hemoglobin, the main protein found in red blood cells. Hemoglobin has the important job of carrying oxygen throughout the body. B vitamins are a critical part of cell metabolism. Our muscles, tissues, organs and various systems cannot function properly without sufficient amounts of these nutrients.

Symptoms of iron deficiency and vitamin B insufficiency can be broad and may vary from person to person. It’s common for these particular deficiencies to negatively affect our mood, sleep patterns and energy levels. To feel your best, it’s important to be mindful of your iron and vitamin B intake.

Food Matters

We are what we eat. We are also what we don’t eat. Consider adding the following foods to your diet. A dietitian can advise on food combinations and preparations to maximize health.

Iron-rich foods include artichokes, beans, lentils, chickpeas, beets, dark leafy greens (such as spinach and collards), egg yolks, liver, red meat and turkey.

Foods rich in vitamin B2 (riboflavin) include almonds, dried herbs and spices, peppers, edamame, fish (mackerel, Atlantic salmon, trout), liver, sesame seeds and sun-dried tomatoes.

Foods with high levels of vitamin B3 (niacin) include beef, chicken, halibut, lamb, salmon, sardines, tuna and turkey.

Vitamin B6-rich (folate) foods include dried herbs and spices (such as chili powder, paprika and tarragon), fish (tuna, salmon, cod), garlic, hazelnuts, liver, pistachios, sunflower seeds and sesame seeds.

Items with lots of vitamin B12 include beef, caviar, cheese, eggs, fish (mackerel, herring, salmon, tuna, cod, sardines and trout), lamb and liver.

If you suspect you may be at risk for vitamin B or iron deficiency, have your health care provider check your blood levels for these nutrients and then monitor your levels every six or 12 months. Be sure to ask about supplementation and determine which supplements are best for you, given your gender, age and specific health needs.

Lisa Cantkier is a lifelong celiac, a nutrition coach at Toronto’s Liberty Clinic and the founder of GlutenFreeFind.com.

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