Healthy Routes Column: Vital Nutrients for the Gluten Damaged Digestive System

by Gladys Kublik, co-owner Neighbors Vitamin Shop

In our August column, we quoted several health experts’ opinions on the long term damage inflicted on the digestive tract by the exposure to gluten in Celiacs. This damage, to a lesser degree, can be found also in people who are sensitive to wheat and gluten containing foods.

The inability to breakdown and digest gluten in food causes further damage to the small intestines. The intestinal mucosa provides an important barrier against toxins and bacteria, when it is damaged it may not be able to prevent their passage through to the body, commonly called leaky gut syndrome. This month we would like to share information about nutrients which are known to heal the stomach and intestines.

Current research supports the role of glutamine in healing GI cells, decreasing oxidant damage in susceptible tissues by increasing and maintaining plasma glutathione levels and as an anti-inflammatory agent.

L-glutamine (glutamine) is the most abundant amino acid in the body, making up 60% of the body’s free amino acid pool. It is especially important for rapidly dividing cells such as those of the GI tract, pancreatic cells, endothelial cells, and the immune system, including T cells and macrophages. Glutamine helps maintain normal intestinal permeability and mucosal cell regeneration and structure. (as stated by E. Roth in Metabolic Disorders in Severe Abdominal Sepsis, Glutamine Deficiency in Skeletal Muscle)

It seems we cannot discuss any aspect of digestive health without recommending Probiotics. When the intestines are not in their most healthy, balanced state, probiotics are vital. These supply the good bacteria necessary to heal damage and protect against bad bacteria which cause illness and disease.

To prepare an environment which would enable the good bacteria provided by probiotics to flourish and repopulate the gut, digestive enzymes are also necessary. When enzymes breakdown food into smaller components, it is easier for the gluten damaged digestion to deal with and it also nourishes the good bacteria enabling it to maintain a healthy balance. Some people would also benefit from the addition of Betaine HCL which promotes optimal gastric acidity for support of protein digestion and absorption of minerals and other nutrients such as vitamin B12. Betaine can be found as part of an enzyme formula or an independent supplement.

DGL, Marshmallow and Slippery Elm are three herbs which have very similar attributes. Slippery Elm has been used as an effective gut healer for centuries. This supplement both contains mucilage and stimulates nerve endings in the body’s intestinal tract to increase natural mucus secretion, which is an instrumental part of the stomach’s protective lining and helps combat ulcers and excessive acidity in the digestive system. It also contains important antioxidants which help with healing.

DGL is an herb that has been used for over 3,000 years in the treatment of digestive issues including ulcers and indigestion. It’s made from whole licorice, but the manufacturing process includes the removal of glycyrrhizin, which can cause an elevation in blood pressure. DGL supports the body’s natural processes for maintaining the mucosal lining of the stomach and duodenum.

Marshmallow root is a multipurpose supplement that can be used for respiratory or digestive relief. Like slippery elm, it contains a high mucilage content. It eases the inflammation in the stomach lining, heals ulcers, and treats both diarrhea and constipation by creating a protective lining on the digestive tract.

Due to the damage to the villi, the intestines’ ability to absorb nutrients, vitamins and minerals from the food passing through decreases.
A 2002 study published in the Journal of Alimentary Pharmacology and Therapeutics which looked at the vitamin status of Celiacs found that 56% of these patients, after following the conventional Celiac prescription for 10 years, still showed signs of poor nutrient uptake. That means after 10 years of being gluten-free, HALF of all Celaics are likely starving for the critical nutrients required for health and longevity.

To address this nutrient deficiency a multi vitamin supplement was recommended so that more nutrients could be absorbed easily without first needing to be extracted from foods. Superior quality vitamins are easily absorbed because of their purity and quality. The careful compounding process necessary to ensure the greatest bioavailability or absorption rate of the nutrients in multi vitamin formulas is worth considering.

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