Celiac Disease In Seniors: What You Need To Know
BY JANE SANDWOOD
Gluten-free diets are becoming more popular in Canada with around one-third of Canadians looking to buy gluten-free products. People buy these products because they want to gluten-free diet based on perceived health benefits or because they have a medical need such as Celiac disease.
Celiac disease can affect people of any age but studies have shown that a substantial portion of celiacs are diagnosed over the age of 50. What do recently diagnosed seniors need to think about when adopting a gluten-free diet?
Celiac disease is an inherited autoimmune disease with symptoms triggered by gluten. Warning signs usually include chronic diarrhea, weight loss, abdominal pain, and malabsorption.
Symptoms may also encompass anemia, fatigue, anemia, ulcers or constipation. There is also a link between celiac disease and type 1 diabetes, both are autoimmune disorders and research shows they have a similar genetic base.
The side-effects of long-standing malabsorption mean that it’s also vital that seniors be tested for anemia, calcium and vitamin D deficiency, osteoporosis, and thyroid and liver diseases.
Once diagnosed, the treatment for Celiac disease is to adopt a strict gluten-free diet and after 6-12 months symptoms will disappear.
Adopting a gluten-free diet
A gluten-free diet is completely free of gluten, even the smallest crumb could cause an adverse reaction in a person with celiac disease. Gluten can be found in many foods, not just in obvious items such as bread or pasta but also in many other foodstuffs and even in prescription medications.
But going gluten-free does not mean food becomes taste-free, a great example of a gluten-free meal, which is also diabetic friendly, is gluten-free huevos rancheros with corn tortillas and sweet potato wedges… delicious!
However, seniors with Celiac disease need to be very vigilant, checking labels and being aware of hidden sources of gluten. If vision is impaired then this can be difficult and support will be needed from family, friends or care workers.
As a senior it may be harder to break a lifetime of dietary habits and the costs of sourcing gluten-free food may be prohibitive but good value gluten-free food is available online. Seniors living in assisted living or a nursing home will need to work with the catering supplier to ensure that all food is free of the risk of gluten contamination.
Being diagnosed with celiac disease feels overwhelming at any age, but even more so when you are older. However, with the right information and support, transitioning to a gluten-free diet is easily possible and will reduce symptoms to a minimum.