5 Common Gluten-Free Diet Nutrient Deficiencies

There are a lot of concerns surrounding a gluten-free lifestyle and nutrients. Because a gluten-free diet is so restrictive and far from the western norm, there are some concerns for potential common gluten-free diet nutrient deficiencies.

Not to mention, if your gut isn’t working right (which is often the case when recovering after a celiac diagnosis), then your nutrient absorption might not be up to par. In this post, I will discuss 5 common gluten-free diet nutrient deficiencies that should be on your radar if you’re living a gluten-free lifestyle.

I want to make it clear, when I say a gluten-free diet I mean a lifestyle that is necessary for those diagnosed with celiac disease or non-celiac gluten sensitivity. Additionally, this post lists foods that are rich in the common gluten-free diet nutrients of concern. While I support and promote a food first approach, sometimes food isn’t enough and supplementation should be considered.


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5 Common Gluten-Free Diet Nutrient Deficiencies


Iron

Our first nutrient deficiency up on the list is iron. Iron is one of the common gluten-free diet nutrient deficiencies for a few reasons.

1. If you have celiac disease and are recovering from damage in your small intestine, your iron absorption could be impaired.

2. Breakfast cereals and bread are often enriched with iron (and other nutrients) but their gluten-free alternates are often not.

These two reasons are why iron is a major gluten-free nutrient deficiency concern.


Magnesium

Magnesium is a common nutrient deficiency seen in people living gluten-free for similar reasons to Iron. (In fact, a lot of the reasons these nutrients are of concern are similar).

Wheat and other whole grains are rich in magnesium and are one of the main sources of magnesium in the diet. When you live gluten-free often, grains are restricted (and some like Wheat, are removed entirely). This means that your biggest contributing source of magnesium is removed on a gluten-free diet leaving you susceptible to magnesium deficiency.

Not to mention magnesium is absorbed in the small intestine and if you’re recovering from damage, well you might not be absorbing as much as you need.

Signs of Magnesium Deficiency:

True magnesium deficiency is rare however, people with celiac disease are at risk due to intestinal damage. Here are some symptoms:

Magnesium Rich Foods to Help with Deficiencies:

  • Pumpkin Seeds
  • Sesame Seeds
  • Sunflower Seeds
  • Almonds
  • Cashews
  • Black beans
  • Quinoa, buckwheat, & brown rice
  • Green leafy vegetables

Folic Acid / Folate

Just like the above mentioned nutrients, people on a gluten-free diet may also be prone to this nutrient deficiency. People with celiac disease are prone due to impaired absorption in the small intestine, but that’s not all.

Because fortified grains are removed from the gluten-free diet, even people with non-celiac gluten sensitivity can be deficient in folate. This is because our grains are fortified with B-Vitamins (among other things).

Signs of Folate Deficiency

Folate deficiency can cause folic acid deficiency anemia, a condition you can read much more about here. People with celiac disease especially, are often diagnosed following persistent and unresolved anemia related to nutrient deficiencies. If you are deficient in folate you may experience anemia and anemia related symptoms.

Foods Rich in Folate to Fight Deficiency:

  • Citrus fruit
  • Leafy Greens (spinach, romaine lettuce, turnip greens)
  • Asparagus
  • Lentils (and other legumes)
  • Beets
  • Broccoli
  • Brussel Sprouts
  • Avocado
  • Eggs

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Calcium + Vitamin D
(The Dairy Double Whammy)

When you have celiac disease the damage to your small intestine can impair your ability to absorb nutrients (as discussed previously). Two of these nutrients are crucial to bone health and those nutrients are Calcium and Vitamin D. If you gut is still under recovery after a celiac diagnosis you might be at risk for a deficiency.

This is also one of the common gluten-free diet nutrient deficiencies because of a related issue. Often when people are diagnosed with celiac disease or non-celiac gluten-sensitivity, they also are intolerant to dairy. This means often people living gluten-free (including myself) restrict calcium-rich and vitamin D fortified dairy products. Thus, people following a gluten-free lifestyle are at risk deficiency in both nutrients.

The risk of deficiency of both nutrients also leaves people with celiac disease at high risk for development of osteoporosis. This is why it’s extremely important to find a health professional who is well versed in the implications of celiac disease to make sure they are monitoring your health appropriately (I.E. bone density scans!).

Calcium Rich Food Sources to Fight Deficiency:

  • Milk (if you aren’t sensitive to it)
  • Chia Seeds
  • Poppy Seeds
  • Sesame Seeds
  • Figs
  • Sardines & Canned Salmon (bonus points if it’s with bones)
  • Beans and Lentils
  • Almonds
  • Dark Leafy Greens
  • Fortified foods (like orange juice, dairy alternatives)

Vitamin D Rich Food Sources to Fight Deficiency:

  • Fatty fish (salmon, tuna, mackerel, etc.)
  • Fortified foods (orange juice, soy milk, milk, etc.)
  • Beef liver
  • Cheese
  • Egg yolks
  • While not a food source, the sun is a great source too. Make sure you’re soaking up enough rays!

While not an all-inclusive list, this is a great starting point on knowing what nutrient deficiencies to keep on eye on if you living gluten-free. As always, consult your medical health professionals if you have any concerns about nutrient deficiencies. This post is not to take the place of individualized medical care provided by your health-care team/provider[s].


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