Gluten Free Fitness

Top 5 reasons why you should exercise gluten free

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Everyone knows that exercise is good for you, right? With the obesity epidemic on the rise, related disorders and diseases such as diabetes and heart disease rapidly increasing, exercise is potentially one of our most potent weapons against these problems.

However, there are some special considerations that people with celiac disease should think about. Exercise should become a part of lifestyle for all of us-but here is why celiacs in particular can benefit.

Top 5 reasons why you should exercise gluten free

1) Weight Control

For some people with celiac disease, malabsorption may have been an issue to the point where they lost weight. For others, they may have gained weight. For all, the prevalence of processed, low nutritive but high calorie gluten free foods is a potential cause for weight/fat gain. Exercise can assist in maintaining a healthy weight, and the inclusion of weight training can also aid in achieving healthy body composition as far as muscle to fat ratio.

Our everyday lives for the most part tend to be very sedentary in nature. Adding exercise can boost the caloric burn you create throughout your day, which would allow you to maintain a caloric balance more easily.

2) Bone health

Osteoporosis and osteopenia are unfortunate and very common consequences of celiac disease and resultant malabsorption of nutrients. Weight bearing exercise such as walking, and running can aid in remodeling of bone.

Unfortunately, cycling and swimming have not been found to be as beneficial when it comes to bone health. Weight training has a very positive impact on bone health. You may not be able to reverse the weakening of bone you already have, but you can certainly keep it from worsening.

3) Improved mood

Certainly non-celiacs demonstrate this as well. Sometimes though, we celiacs get a case of the “why me’s?” or get frustrated with the challenges of everyday living gluten free. Walking into the break room at work and seeing crumbs all over the counter does it to me!

Step away from the kitchen, and go exercise. Exercise has been shown to release hormones known as endorphins which can boost mood. Also, the neurotransmitter serotonin is released which can also assist in maintaining a positive mood.

4) Improved overall circulation

This could also assist in keeping the gut healthy, or in healing damage already created from gluten in a small way. Blood flow to the gut is decreased during an actual exercise bout (and directed to the working muscles,) but overall the circulation to and activity of the digestive tract is improved with regular exercise.

5) Improved nutrition

Of course this doesn’t come directly from exercise. But exercising may cause you to make healthier nutrition choices. The “halo effect” or where the positive qualities of one thing transfer to another, may make you reach for the carrot instead of the gluten free muffin. Doing one good thing for your body may create a domino effect where you do a second and third good thing for your body. Improving your nutrition by eating more vitamin and nutrient rich whole foods will fill in any deficiencies you may have experienced due to malapsorption. Also you may experience weight/fat loss of that is your goal given an appropriate caloric intake level.

A couple of considerations to keep in mind.

You do want to be sure to get adequate levels of iron and calcium, magnesium and Vitamin D to sustain energy levels and maximize bone health. Also keep in mind, especially if weight training, that protein needs may be higher. Generally accepted levels for weight training athletes (yes you are an athlete) is approximately 1g of protein per pound of bodyweight.

So what will exercise do for you? Potentials are limitless-but looking better, feeling strong, keeping bones healthy, thinking positive, and eating well-sounds pretty good to me!

The Celiac Disease Foundation and Team Gluten Free™

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From the Team Gluten Free website:

Team Gluten-Free™, is a fundraising arm of the Celiac Disease Foundation, a 501(c)(3) non-profit, public benefit corporation dedicated to building awareness and a supportive community for patients, families and health care professionals dealing with Celiac Disease. Team Gluten-Free™ provides a way for runners, walkers, and cyclists to raise awareness and funds through pledges for their participation in local and regional road races. The money raised by participants goes directly to research, awareness, and summer camp scholarships for children with Celiac Disease.

They are currently creating teams to compete in various races around the country. What a great way to help yourself with your fitness goals, and to help raise money and awareness for celiac disease? A win/win I say!!

For more info please go to the Team Gluten Free website.

Common nutrient absorption issues with celiac and what to do about it

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As we all are far too familiar with, celiac disease can present some challenges with absorbing nutrients from our foods.

Villi

Prior to being diagnosed, the inflammation and damage in the small intestine can cause food to “run right through us” so to speak, and even when that doesn’t happen those little villi aren’t up to par. (Which makes me think-those of use with intestinal issues are certainly a but more familiar with anatomy than the average person, aren’t we?

Villi to anyone else may sound like a shape of pasta-but I digress.) And just in case you are not familiar with the word “villi”, it’s not a pasta or a grape varietal, they are the little finger-like projections that stick out from the walls of the small intestine, sucking up the good stuff-nutrients, vitamins, minerals, etc.

When the lovely little villi get mad at us if we eat what they consider to be the wrong thing, they don’t work so well.

They get riled up and inflamed, and then they don’t do a good job absorbing the good stuff anymore. Over time they can also get smaller (“villous atrophy”, anyone-prior to that are “flattened villi”) and then there’s even less surface area to absorb the good stuff. This continues on as long as the irritant is ingested-in this case, gluten.

The good news

The good news is that the gut can heal to a large extent as long as gluten is not ingested-the irritant is removed and healing can begin. Some of us as are very fortunate and are diagnosed quickly, before too much permanent damage has been done. Others who have suffered through a lengthy diagnosing/mis diagnosing process have a bit more of an intestinal structural challenge when it comes to absorbing properly.

This impaired ability to absorb nutrients can create several issues, of which I’m going to touch on just a few, and lump some together as well. A good idea is to get tested for baseline levels of these items by your doctor (the ones that can be tested for,) generally a simple blood test will do the trick and give you a starting point.

1) Overall lack of nutrient absorption can cause weight loss while undiagnosed.

This is not a good thing. Conversely, after being diagnosed people may find they gain weight. Up to a normal weight this is a good thing, and necessary if an individual has been malnourished due to lack of nutrients. Weight gain after diagnosis is not uncommon, and something I will be touching on in greater depth in another article.

2) Essential fatty acids-Omega 3 and 6’s.

They are all over the media lately, so you’ve probably heard of them. In general, we get enough Omega 6’s from everyday stuff. However, unless you eat a lot of fish, you may want to actively get more Omega 3’s in your diet. Fatty fish like wild salmon are great sources. You can also get some vegetarian sources from walnuts, pumpkin seeds and flax. I also supplement with a fish oil. A TBSP a day of Carlson Fish Oil covers me, and really isn’t bad at all, I promise. Pour into a measuring spoon and just slam it.

3) Vitamin D, Calcium and Magnesium.

I lumped these together because they are all important for bone health. At age 30 I was diagnosed with osteopenia, and here I am an athlete who lifts weights! Bone health is a huge issue for celiacs in general, especially the females amongst us. Calcium is obviously in dairy, but that doesn’t help the casein intolerant, does it?

Food sources of calcium: spinach, greens, (turnip, mustard, collard, kale) broccoli, molasses, squash, cabbage

Food sources of magnesium: pumpkin seeds, brazil nuts, halibut, spinach (see a pattern…) beans, artichokes

Food sources of Vitamin D: cod liver oil, salmon, milk. Other dairy products are generally NOT fortified with D.

Even with all this, in regards to Vitamin D that’s more than likely not going to get you enough. And I’m sure you’ve heard about how Vitamin D is the “sunshine vitamin” which we don’t produce enough due to our largely indoor-dwelling and sunscreen-wearing lives. I supplement with all 3-calcium, magnesium and Vitamin D in pill form.

The The Food and Nutrition Board of the Institute of Medicine has established 2000 IU as generally safe for adults. There’s also a lot of talk about the RDA for Vitamin D being raised significantly. There are also many anecdotal reports of much larger doses being used without adverse affect.

I say, do your research and read, then make an informed personal decision. My personal decision involves 2000 IU of Vitamin D, plus the amounts in my multivitamin, Cal/Mag supplement, and limited sunshine from walking the dog.

4) Iron.

There are 2 types of iron: heme and non heme. According to the McKinley Illinois website:

HEME iron is found only in meat, fish and poultry and is absorbed much more easily than NON-HEME iron, which is found primarily in fruits, vegetables, dried beans, and nuts.

The absorption of non heme foods can be enhanced by eating it with a Vitmain C source (such as citrus fruit, strawberries, red bell pepper) or by being cooked in a cast iron skillet.

Heme iron sources: liver (you knew that was coming, didn’t you?), beef, chicken, pork, salmon, tuna, turkey

Non-heme sources: almonds, apricots, beans, molasses, rice, broccoli

This just begins to scratch the surface. I always take a multivitamin/mineral to cover my nutritional bases. I think a digestive enzyme supplement and pro/prebiotics could also be helpful to assist in maximizing nutrient uptake.

Did you notice any patterns in the lists of recommended foods? Green leafy veggies, lean protein sources, healthy fats in the form of nuts and fatty fish, high fiber food like beans and the veggies again….sounds pretty good, doesn’t it?

Go forth and absorb!!


References:
www.mayoclinic.com
www.health.gov
www.mckinley.illinois.edu

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