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Individuals following a gluten-free diet may be susceptible to nutrient deficiencies. In those with celiac disease, gluten damages the small intestine, leading to malabsorption of nutrients. Until the intestine has had a chance to heal, this can cause deficiencies. In addition, after the intestine has healed, nutrient deficiencies may occur due to the fact that most processed gluten-free grain products are not enriched with vitamins and minerals, unlike their gluten- containing counterparts. Inadequate consumption of these nutrients may put individuals at increased risk of osteoporosis, heart disease, cancer, neurological decline and other chronic diseases. It’s important to include plenty of nutrient-dense foods in the gluten-free diet: whole grains (e.g. quinoa, gluten-free oats, teff), vegetables, beans, fruits, meats and dairy products. At times a supplement may be necessary as well. This should be discussed with a dietitian and/or physician.
How to Select a Supplement
Supplementation should never take the place of a healthy, varied diet, but the right supplement may help improve the nutrient status of individuals who cannot get the nutrients they need from diet alone. Deciding whether to take a supplement and which one can be overwhelming and confusing.
Know your needs
- Consult with a physician and/or dietitian who can help you accurately identify your unique nutrient status and what your shortfall nutrients may be.
- The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has released a set of recommended intake values for nutrients for individuals aged 4 years and older. These daily values (DV’s) are based on a 2000 calorie diet. Daily values for nutrients that are commonly deficient in a gluten-free diet are listed in the table above.
- For recommendations specific to age, gender, and for women who are pregnant or breastfeeding, visit the Office of Dietary Supplements Nutrient Recommendations web page.*
- Bring any supplements you are taking to appointments with your physician and/or dietitian.
Know your supplement
Many supplements use excipients, or “fillers,” which may contain gluten. The source of the excipient may be wheat, or it may be a gluten-free source such as corn. Read the ingredient list on the label and, if in doubt, check with your pharmacist or the manufacturer of the supplement to ensure that it is gluten-free. Remember, wheat free is not the same as gluten-free!
- If you would like to investigate the quality of a supplement, there are currently three companies that conduct independent investigations and certify supplements. The three companies are U.S. Pharmacopeia, ConsumerLab.com, and NSF International.
- Read the supplement label and facts.
For more information on supplements, visit:
- Office of Dietary Supplements at http://ods.od.nib.gov
- U.S. Food and Drug Administration, information on Dietary Supplements at http://www.fda.gov/food/dietarysupplements/default.htm