Can a Dietitian Help With Celiac Disease?
Dietitians help with celiac disease all the time. In fact, there are dietitians who specialize in solely helping people specifically with celiac disease. Dietitians like me *winks*.
I guess that just gave away the answer to the title’s question “can a dietitian help with celiac”. If you haven’t caught on yet, the answer is yes. Yes, a dietitian can help with celiac disease.
Why are Dietitians Helpful with Celiac?
Dietitians, or registered dietitians (RD) to be more specific, are trained food and nutrition experts. Per the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, a registered dietitian nutritionist (RDN) is a food and nutrition expert who has met national academic and professional requirements and can provide medical nutrition therapy.
Requirements to be a dietitian include completing an ACEND accredited bachelor’s/master’s degree, 1200 hours supervised practice, national exam, and continuing education.
Basically, registered dietitians are trained to help with all things food. They help with things like vitamins, nutrients, and food relationships. They are important because your nutrition and relationship with food are at risk with celiac.
Even better, a celiac-specialized registered dietitian is trained in all things food for celiac. Things like dining out, socializing, holidays, and more. Meaning, if you can find a celiac nutrition expert, you can really improve your quality of life.
Do I Need a Coach, Dietitian, or Nutritionist?
There’s a lot to talk about here. It’s important you get help with celiac disease from the right person.
A celiac coach is a largely undefined term. This means anyone can call themselves a celiac coach without meeting any requirements. Always make sure when considering a celiac coach to check their qualifications.
And remember, lived experience does not equal qualified. Lived experience simply means they are an expert on their own needs. It does not mean they are an expert on helping you figure out your needs.
That being said, coaches can be helpful in accountability and support. Though a coach should never be telling you what to do to stay safe.
A nutritionist or nutrition therapist are both largely undefined terms. Sometimes registered dietitians refer to themselves as these to be easily identified by the public.
However, often nutritionists don’t have to meet any qualifications to call themselves a nutritionist or nutrition therapist. Often they just complete a short online training and start using the title. So again, beware and always check people’s qualifications.
A registered dietitian has to meet very specific requirements to use the RD credential. Dietitians are specifically trained in nutrition and medical nutrition therapy.
Living gluten-free impacts your entire life. A celiac dietitian is trained to help in all the ways your life has changed.
Choose who you get your help from wisely.
How can a Dietitian Help with Celiac Disease?
Dietitians can help with celiac disease in a lot of ways. This is because your entire life is impacted by eating gluten-free. As food experts, celiac dietitians are trained to help.
Celiac patients can expect a celiac dietitian to help with:
- understanding what is celiac-safe
- eating a balanced gluten-free diet
- building coping skills to participate and enjoy life events
- address disordered eating/eating disorders
- advocate and monitor follow-up testing
- help with lasting celiac symptoms
and so much more.
Education on Celiac-Safety
Celiac disease safety is important for those with celiac. Staying safe means someone is eating gluten-free to prevent gut damage. Additionally, it means they are weighing their entire well-being into their choices.
Staying safe requires being able to accurately check food labels for gluten. The only treatment for celiac is a gluten-free diet, thus, label reading skills are essential.
Furthermore, celiac safety involves understanding how to dine out safely with celiac. Yet so many people with celiac don’t know how to do this. Instead, many avoid eating out all together.
In fact, a 2006 suvery of 2600+ celiac adults found that almost half of them struggled with staying gluten-free. Of those struggling with staying gluten-free, 79% said it was because of having to avoid restaurants.
To improve quality of life and to make staying gluten-free easier, dining out safely with celiac is an important skill. A skill that a dietitian can help you build.
Basically, celiac safety involves building the knowledge and the skill-set to keep you healthy. All of which a dietitian can help with.
Guidance on a Celiac Diet
A celiac diet is always a gluten-free diet. However, a celiac diet will look different for everyone. A dietitian can help with celiac by adjusting the diet to your needs.
For example, people with celiac are often diagnosed with nutrient deficiencies. These nutrient deficiencies can range from having anemia to being low in calcium and vitamin D. This often is a result of malabsorption from intestinal damage.
Basically, you’re not getting nutrients from food because your gut is damaged. That sounds scary but don’t worry, you can heal you gut (a dietitian can help with this too).
A dietitian can analyze nutritional needs based on your nutrient panels and eating patterns. Afterwards, they can then help balance your diet to meet nutrient gaps found.
Additionally, a celiac dietitian can guide you through a non-responsive celiac diet. This is a diet reserved for the small subset of the celiac population does not respond to general celiac-safety protocols.
Help Build Your Coping Skills
A found that celiacs reported a high treatment burden. In fact, the treatment burden reported was second to participants with end stage renal disease. Basically, a gluten-free diet for celiac is the second most difficult medical diet to follow.
In other words, living gluten-free is hard. As a result, people with celiac can adapt unhelpful behaviors. Behaviors healthcare providers refer to as hypervigilant behaviors.
These behaviors negatively impact quality of life. Hypervigilance can look like never dining out, avoiding social events, not eating, and more.
A registered dietitian can help make sure you’re taking the proper precautions in the least limiting manner possible.
Meaning a registered dietitian can help you find the least restrictive way of living gluten-free.
Address Disordered Eating or Eating Disorders
Speaking of hypervigilance, this hyper-awareness around food can lead to eating disorders.
This is extremely important because eating disorders are common in the celiac population. In fact, a 2019 study on eating disorders and autoimmune diseases found that 50% of celiacs are at risk for anorexia nervosa and 47% are at risk for disordered eating.
Anecdotally, 90% of my celiac clients come to me with some kind of disordered eating habits. Disordered eating with celiac can look like:
- fearing food or certain types of food (outside of gluten)
- thinking about food all day every day
- restricting foods (outside of gluten)
- only eating a small list of foods
- skipping meals purposely and frequently
- intentionally eating gluten
If eating disorders or disordered eating with celiac goes unaddressed, it can impair your overall health. For example, it can prevent healing of the small intestine, celiac blood tests from normalizing, and cause lingering symptoms.
Advocate for Follow-up Testing
Another way dietitians can help with celiac disease is by advocating for follow-up celiac testing. Follow-up celiac blood tests, bone density scans, endoscopies, biopsies, are essential in monitoring celiac health.
A dietitian can help make sure you’re getting the proper follow-ups by coordinating care with your gastroenterologist. Additionally, they can assist in helping you improve any results that may not be normalizing despite living gluten-free.
Help With Celiac Disease Symptoms
Lastly, a registered dietitian can help with celiac disease by helping relieve lasting symptoms. If you’re still struggling with celiac symptoms like brain fog, constipation, bloating, diarrhea, headaches, nausea, etc. a dietitian can help uncover the cause.
Sometimes lasting symptoms are result of not following a strict gluten-free diet. Other times they have other causes.
Ultimately, the best way to know what’s causing lasting symptoms is to get the help of a celiac dietitian.
Do you Need Help With Celiac?
Do you need help with celiac? After reading this post, hopefully you have an idea on how a dietitian can help.
A celiac registered dietitian is the nutrition expert when it comes to celiac. They are uniquely trained to help people eat gluten-free without sacrificing joy.
Not only can dietitians improve your quality of life with celiac, but they can help you feel better too.
So I ask again, do you need the help of a celiac dietitian?