The Celiac Guide to a Low Carb Gluten Free Diet

According to the Celiac Disease Foundation, “Celiac disease is a serious autoimmune disorder that can occur in genetically predisposed people where the ingestion of gluten leads to damage in the small intestine. It is estimated to affect 1 in 100 people worldwide.” That means there is a strong chance you or someone you know has Celiac disease. And, worryingly, the number of diagnosable patients appears to be dramatically increasing.

What is Celiac Disease? 

What causes Celiac disease, beyond an intolerance to gluten, has yet to be better understood by scientists and doctors. Triggers such as stress, family genetics, diet, and a compromised immune system all seem to play an integral role, but for many people, the root of this lifelong condition will go unanswered. If you have a family history of Celiac disease, you are more at risk; but pregnant women may also be affected, even without a family connection.

Symptoms can manifest in childhood, or later in life; and for the bearer, it can be an unpleasant, often painful, experience to endure. Symptoms also vary depending on your age.

Symptoms of Celiac Disease in Adults:

  • Abdominal bloating or pain
  • Gas
  • Chronic diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Constipation
  • Pale, foul-smelling or fatty stool
  • Fatigue
  • Anemia
  • Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
  • Delayed growth and puberty

Symptoms of Celiac Disease in Toddlers:

  • Vomiting
  • Chronic diarrhea
  • Swollen belly
  • Failure to thrive
  • Poor appetite
  • Muscle wasting

Older children or teens may experience:

  • Diarrhea
  • Constipation
  • Weight loss
  • Irritability
  • Short Stature
  • Delayed puberty
  • Neurological symptoms, including attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), learning disabilities, headaches, lack of muscle coordination and seizures

Unfortunately, as the symptoms of Celiac disease can vary from person to person, and one of the most significant problems with this condition is the obscurity of the symptoms, it’s easy to mistake your symptoms as feeling under the weather, having another disease, or blaming eating a Standard American Diet (although the latter is partly to blame). Many people often go without a diagnosis as they feel too embarrassed to seek help.  

The good news is that Celiac disease is becoming more routine, and more people are learning to alleviate their symptoms by making simple dietary changes at home. For some people, just switching to a low carb diet is all they need to do to live a confident and comfortable life. But, as always, it is best to talk to your Doctor before making any changes; especially if you have been diagnosed with Celiac disease or are on medication.

More Doctors are familiar with celiac disease, than even in the past 20 years, and are helping people to make holistic lifestyle changes. So if you think you might have Celiac, or your display these kinds of symptoms after eating certain foods, we’re going to help shed some light on what you can do to regain control of your gut health. As, after all, your gut is the “second brain,” and is responsible for regulating almost all of the core processes taking place in your body.  

Even if you don’t have Celiac disease, this knowledge can help everyone and is a great way to improve your overall wellness (including managing diabetes, heart disease, and inflammatory conditions). The symptoms above are incredibly prevalent in the West and don’t necessarily mean you have Celiac disease. But you should consider making nutritional choices to reduce the effects of these symptoms from happening to you.

Conditions that may be linked to Celiac disease include:

  • Dermatitis herpetiformis
  • Type 1 diabetes
  • Down syndrome
  • Turner syndrome
  • Autoimmune thyroid disease
  • Microscopic colitis (lymphocytic or collagenous colitis)
  • Addison's disease
  • Rheumatoid arthritis

While the connections are not yet known for sure, it appears that inflammatory conditions do put people at risk of Celiac disease. Inflammation is a response to your body being off-balance, and chronic inflammation (the long-term, ongoing type) is a sure sign you need to make lifestyle and dietary changes - Celiac or not. Chronic inflammation has a strong connection to heart disease and can contribute to the buildup of cholesterol in your arteries, which can cause heart attacks - a severe and life-threatening condition.  

First up, we’re going to look at what causes Celiac disease; then we will show you how to start to incorporate a low-carb, gluten-free diet into your life.

More Gluten Causes More Celiac Disease

Between lifestyle changes, dietary changes, and our dependence on easy and convenient, if only processed foods, it seems like America has taken a blow to the gut. For people with Celiac disease, eating even a few crumbs of gluten can be harmful. It may lead to weeks or months of stressful inflammation and abdominal migraines. This is perhaps why manufacturers are turning to gluten-free recipes and providing clear and transparent gluten-free labeling to help reduce the risk of Celiacs consuming gluten.  

If you’re wondering if our Nui cookies gluten-free - they absolutely are. But, what is gluten? In the purest form, gluten is a form of protein found in cereal grains but most commonly in wheat. Gluten is a very popular addition to baked or processed foods as it’s responsible for texture. Gluten adds that familiar chewy, elastic texture to the dough, and as such, quickly became a very popular addition to many processed and mixed foods. Without gluten, pizzas would be pancakes and bagels would cease to exist (or so people think!).

Over the past few decades, we have seen the rise of processed foods, bread, grains, cereals, and with it, the increase of gluten consumption. The more gluten that has been added to our food system, the more people have been diagnosed with Celiac disease. It’s a very simple but sad trend that is pretty undeniable to see, and for 1 in 100 people worldwide, it means a lifetime of reading labels for fear of eating gluten. But more gluten on the shelves is not the only reason Celiac disease is on the rise.

Here are the current three theories on why gluten intolerance is skyrocketing: 

"Losing touch with “old friends:” according to Dr. McCombs, creator of The Candida Plan, “We have gradually lost touch with microbes like bacteria, parasites, fungi, etc., that we evolved with.” Underdeveloped countries especially are booming with Celiac diagnoses, and Doctors believe it is because their diet has little to no probiotic value.

Americans depend on wheat: look on almost any label in your pantry, and you will not be surprised to see wheat listed as a primary ingredient. According to Donald D. Kasarda, a researcher with the United States Department of Agriculture, the U.S. has tripled its amount of wheat gluten consumption in the past 40 years.

Antibiotics: In a 2014 study published in JAMA, researchers found that doctors often prescribed more antibiotics when they worked longer shifts. According to Dr. Martin Blaser, author of "Missing Microbes: How the Overuse of Antibiotics Is Fueling Our Modern Plagues," the cause of most modern-day food allergies and digestive issues are also due to the overuse of antibiotics. Most antibiotics cannot target specific microbes and will instead attack all of them.

As you can see, gluten is not the only villain at play; lifestyle, stress, diet, and overall health can all become contributing factors to gluten intolerance. Whether you are born a Celiac, became one later in life, or are just fed up of feeling fatigued and depressed, there is hope. More people are turning to a low-carb diet to eliminate the founding triggers of Celiac disease and symptoms brought on by a high-grain high-carb diet. And the results appear to be overwhelmingly positive when doing so.  

The Complications of Celiac Disease

While the symptoms of Celiac disease can be daunting, they are not isolated. If you fail to make lifestyle changes, you may discover that Celiac disease can trigger other health conditions that further degrade the quality of your life. This is especially true for those people who have a family history of health conditions. But keep in mind that while these also sound scary, the changes we suggest later will be simple and straightforward (not to mention downright delicious!).

Celiac disease poses as a “mimic” disease, meaning that the symptoms often mimic other those of other diseases. As such, people with Celiac disease may go undiagnosed and continue to eat gluten. This, in turn, makes them sicker, until perhaps, they reach a diagnosis and or give up gluten.

This process can take years to fix and increases the risk of complications and stress caused by Celiac disease. Complications are essentially side effects stemming from an undiagnosed condition.

Here are some of the ways Celiac disease can cause complications:

  • Malnutrition. The damage to your small intestine means it can't absorb enough nutrients. Malnutrition can lead to anemia and weight loss. In children, malnutrition can cause slow growth and short stature.
  • Loss of calcium and bone density. Malabsorption of calcium and vitamin D may lead to a softening of the bone (osteomalacia or rickets) in children and a loss of bone density (osteoporosis) in adults.
  • Infertility and miscarriage. Malabsorption of calcium and vitamin D can contribute to reproductive issues.
  • Lactose intolerance. Damage to your small intestine may cause you to experience abdominal pain and diarrhea after eating lactose-containing dairy products, even though they don't contain gluten.
  • Neurological problems. Some people with celiac disease may develop neurological problems such as seizures or peripheral neuropathy (disease of the nerves that lead to the hands and feet).
  • Cancer. People with celiac disease who don't maintain a gluten-free diet have a greater risk of developing several forms of cancer, including intestinal lymphoma and small bowel cancer.

When your body is gluten intolerant, and you keep consuming gluten, you can exacerbate or cause other conditions. Much like diabetes, a long-term management approach is your best solution. If you suspect you have Celiac disease, it is best to go see a Doctor as soon as you can as undiagnosed Celiac disease poses a lot of risks to your overall health. While there are more than 200 associated symptoms, which makes diagnosis difficult, a significant percentage of people, both adults, and children have no or minimal symptoms.

Why a Low Carb Diet?

So, you might have noticed the nutritional trend that’s changing how people order their food or shop for groceries at the store. From the “no buns, please” to the improved labeling becoming more commonplace, we are in somewhat of a food renaissance. More people than ever are making educated decisions on what they bring to the table, and a low-carb diet is proving to be the trend that won’t back down.  

A happy side effect of a low carb diet is weight loss and stable blood sugar levels. Despite the misconception that eating more fat will make you fat, eating lots of protein and healthy fats can make you feel more satiated. This means you feel the desire to eat less often, aiding in a natural calorie deficit. Add in the fact you will be eating nutrient-dense food, and it’s easy to see why you will feel amazing.

As noted earlier, many carbs and sugar are also responsible for causing inflammation in the body; from refined flours and grains to fried foods and saturated (bad) fats, simply removing these items from your diet can help you feel an improvement. Furthermore, many people who go low-carb often report a transformative sensation. According to the Harvard School of Public Health, this is because our body thrives on a low carb diet and are quick to respond.  

Health benefits of a low-carb, high-fat diet:

  • Supports fat floss
  • Reduces the hunger sensation
  • Stabilizes blood sugar levels and insulin
  • Reduces the risk of heart disease
  • Enhanced cognitive performance
  • Can defend against some cancers  

While we could talk about the benefits of a low carb diet all day, it’s important to realize that simply giving up grain is not a one-stop solution. To reap the rewards, you must be able to follow this diet consistently and be willing to take part in low impact cardio exercise (like walking or swimming) as part of a whole lifestyle approach. As someone with celiac disease, we do not recommend “cheating” - even occasionally - as this can make you feel awful.

The good news is that when you follow a low carb, high-fat diet correctly, the foods are so plentiful and delicious, you never feel like you’re on a diet. From good old bacon and eggs to steak dinners and indulgent alfredo sauce, low carbs foods are packed with flavor. And, as they do not have empty calories like many carbs, you’ll feel incredibly full and satisfied; so there will be less of a need to “cheat.” Every day feels like you’re hacking the system!

If you don’t believe us, this article we wrote on foods that burn fat and train your brain is also gluten-free and compliment your goals!

Is Gluten Free and Low Carb the Same?

On the surface, a gluten-free or low-carb diet might appear to be similar. Both reject the concept of processed foods and sugar. However, where they greatly vary is in the purpose. People who consume a gluten-free diet do so to eliminate gluten, the trigger for Celiac disease. People on a low-carb diet do so for fat loss and to regulate their blood sugar levels. But that doesn’t mean you cannot opt-in for both.

Going gluten-free and low-carb is surprisingly simple, as both diets are very complementary and seek to eliminate many of the same symptoms. People who eat a low-carb diet, for example, will often experience more energy and will feel less fatigue (a common symptom of celiac disease) and people who are Celiac, will often turn to low-carb recipes as an intuitive way to avoid gluten or wheat.

In the simplest of terms:

  • People seeking weight loss should consider a low carb diet
  • People seeking relief from Celiac disease should consider a gluten-free diet
  • Many people will thrive on a gluten-free, low-carb diet

One thing that is important to note, however, is that while many low-carb foods do not contain gluten, some do. Going low-carb is not exclusively gluten-free. Many food manufacturers are making more low-carb foods gluten-free out of respect for the growing number of people with Celiac disease, but it is always best to read the label and to look for ingredients such as wheat and gluten, to prevent any problems.

The next step is to acknowledge that many gluten-free foods are not in fact low-carb. And, not all grains are created equal. The following are naturally gluten-free:

Gluten-free foods:

  • Rice
  • Cassava
  • Corn (maize)       
  • Soy
  • Potato
  • Tapioca
  • Beans
  • Sorghum
  • Quinoa
  • Millet
  • Buckwheat groats (also known as kasha)
  • Arrowroot
  • Amaranth
  • Teff
  • Flax
  • Chia
  • Yucca
  • Gluten-free oats
  • Nut Flours

However, these items are not necessarily low-carb. This is an important observation and one we are about to unpack.

The Problem with Eliminating Gluten and Carbs

In many cases, foods high in gluten are high in carbs. When it comes to following a low-carb diet, eliminating gluten can help you make simple, informed decisions (even if you do not have Celiac disease). A cup of whole-wheat macaroni, for example, contains 41 grams of carbs and only 2 of those come from fiber. This means that “healthy whole grain” is providing 39 grams of digestible, or net carbs. Whole wheat bread contains around 12 grams of carbs.

While this is less than sourdough bread (69 grams of net carbs per slice), it is still too high for a low-carb, ketogenic diet. Wheat alternatives may be included in a gluten-free diet, but not a gluten-free low-carb diet. Corn pasta, for example, contains 32 grams of carbs per cup, and a large sweet potato or a cup of brown rice, while gluten-free is still too high in carbs. So, while they won’t necessarily trigger a Celiac, they will not be true low-carb foods, and may not give you all of the benefits you are looking for (reduced inflammation, and so on).

If going gluten-free seems complicated or overwhelming, you would be a great candidate for a low-carb diet as almost all low-carb foods naturally avoid wheat or variations of grain or gluten (and don’t require complicated substitutions). Many Celiacs turn to a low-carb diet because the range of what you can or cannot eat when going gluten-free feels daunting. For a simpler meal plan, giving up carbs gives enables you to eliminate gluten and replace carbs with healthy fats that your body loves.

However, it is worth noting that not all low-carb diets are equal. In fact, many low-carb diets, like the Atkins diet, got a bad reputation when people trade in fat loss for lethargy, and results that were hard to sustain. So, if you intend to go low-carb to improve your quality of life, it may be a nasty shock to discover many low-carb diets do not provide enough fast-acting energy. This is the case with the Atkins diet and other short-term diets.

The Future: A Gluten-Free Ketogenic Diet

Introducing the ketogenic diet. While many low-carb diets (such as Paleo, Caveman, and Atkins) promote the benefits of a low-carb lifestyle, the ketogenic diet is very unique in that it changes your metabolism to use fat for fuel instead of carbs. This process of ketosis boasts all the good effects of a low-carb diet without the negative associations (lethargy, hunger, and so on), and is intended to improve your wellness.

And, unlike other low-carb diets, keto promotes giving up all grains (which contain gluten), which makes this an easy way to support Celiac disease. The ketogenic diet is very disciplined, but it is also very simple. And you won’t find yourself second guessing if you can eat risky foods that put you at a high risk of a Celiac relapse. After all, it only takes a few crumbs of grains to pose a risk to your health.

With keto, you can eat more confidently knowing that you have a unique pool of delicious food to pull form. Elana Amsterdam, New York Times-bestselling author and founder of Elana’s Pantry, a website devoted to gluten-free and grain-free recipes, also sees the connection. “If you’re already eating a healthy gluten-free diet that is free of processed foods, the next step would be eliminating grains, plus corn and potatoes, as well as fruit.”

Amsterdam has found personal benefits in following the ketogenic diet. “It has helped both my gut and brain function better.”

Here at Nui, making low-carb and gluten-free cookies was an easy decision as it means many more people can enjoy our yummy cookies.

If you’re wondering how a gluten-free diet can have cookies, the ketogenic diet offers these grain-free, gluten-free alternatives:

  • Coconut flour
  • Almond flour
  • Xanthan gum (for binding)
  • Sweeteners

So if you or your Doctor believe a low-carb diet can manage your condition, the keto diet might be the answer you have been waiting on. Not to mention, eating ketogenic means giving up one of the biggest problems in our diet - sugar. Read the health benefits of giving up sugar on our blog for more info.   

Gluten Free Low Carb Snacks

If you’re wondering what you can eat on a low-carb gluten-free ketogenic diet, we have the best news for you; you can eat almost anything! Thanks to alternative ingredients, more recipes than ever exist to replace the foods that trigger Celiac disease with clean and delicious options that help us give into our sweet cravings and give food texture - and are completely guilt free.

From low-carb and gluten-free pizzas to cookies (that’s us!), never has a low-carb diet provided so much variety or indulgence.

In the heart of this gluten-free ketogenic diet, you will eat:

  • High-fat proteins
  • Low carb vegetables and fruits
  • No processed sugars or refined grains
  • Sweeteners such as monk fruit or stevia
  • Alternative flours like almond flour or coconut flour
  • Fats and oils
  • Low-carb nuts
  • And more

Here are some delicious low-carb, gluten-free snacks:

Recipe Key:

  • Atkins Induction Friendly= IF
  • Gluten Free = GF
  • Sugar-Free = SF
  • Vegetarian = V
  • Less than 5 net carbs per serving = -5

 

General

 

  • Antipasto Crunchy Trail Mix IF, GF, SF, V, -5
  • Bacon Cheese Poppers with Pecans SF, GF, -5
  • Beef Jerky IF, GF, SF, -5
  • Zest Beef Jerky IF, GF, SF, -5
  • Spicy Beef Jerky IF, GF, SF, -5
  • Boneless Chicken Wings IF, GF, SF, -5
  • Cauliflower Tater Tots IF, GF, SF, -5
  • Easy Minute Microwave Cheese Straws IF, GF, SF, V, -5
  • Easy Minute Microwave Crunchy Nachos IF, GF, SF, V, -5
  • Easy Minute Microwave Chipless Nachos IF, GF, SF, V, -5
  • Cheetos IF, GF, SF, -5
  • Chipless Nachos IF, GF, SF, -5
  • Easy Breadsticks [Recipe] IF, GF, SF, -5
  • Crispy Celeriac Chips IF, GF, SF, -5
  • Fried Pickle Planks IF, GF, SF, -5
  • Frying Cheese as Mozzarella Sticks IF, GF, SF, -5, V
  • Hard-Boiled Eggs IF, GF, SF, V, -5
  • Italian Nachos IF, GF, SF, -5
  • Like Potato Skins IF, GF, SF, -5
  • Macho Nacho Salad IF, GF, SF, -5
  • Mini Taco Shells and Bowls IF, GF, SF, -5
  • Minute Microwave Mini Meatballs  IF, GF, SF, -5
  • Mozzarella Cheese Sticks IF, GF, SF, -5
  • Perfect Hard-Boiled Eggs IF, GF, SF, -5
  • Pizza in a Cone IF, GF, SF, -5
  • Pizza Trail Mix IF, GF, SF, V, -5
  • Popcorn IF, GF, SF, -5
  • Pumpkin Mini Pizzas IF, GF, SF, -5
  • Roasted Green Beans for Dipping IF, GF, SF, V, -5 
  • Snack Platter Ideas IF, GF, SF, -5
  • Sam Paul’s Kicked Up Chicken Wings IF, GF, SF, -5
  • Spinach Stuffed Mushrooms IF, GF, SF, -5
  • Sausage Stuffed Mushrooms IF, GF, SF, V, -5
  • Tater Tots IF, GF, SF, V, -5
  • Turkey Jerky IF, GF, SF, -5


Crackers and Chips

  • Basic Flax Cracker IF, GF, SF, -5
  • Cauliflower Doritos IF, GF, SF, -5
  • Cauliflower Nacho Chips IF, GF, SF, -5
  • Cheese Chicken Dorito Chips IF, GF, SF, -5
  • Celeriac Potato Chips IF, GF, SF, -5
  • Cheese Round Crackers IF, GF, SF, -5
  • Flax Round Crackers IF, GF, SF, -5
  • Jerky, The Meat Cracker of Champions IF, GF, SF, -5
  • Kale Chips (4 ways) IF, GF, SF, V, -5
  • Roasted Veggie Cheese Crackers IF, GF, SF, -5
  • Zucchini Doritos IF, GF, SF, -5
  • Zucchini Nacho Chips IF, GF, SF, -5


Dips and Spreads

 

  • American Cheese Sauce IF, GF, SF, -5
  • Blue Cheese Bacon Dip IF, GF, SF, -5
  • Bacon Cheese Poppers with Pecans SF, GF, -5
  • Broccomole IF, GF, SF, V, -5
  • Creamy Salsa Dip IF, GF, SF, V, -5
  • Queso Cheese Sauce IF, GF, SF, -5
  • Avocado Feta Salsa IF, GF, SF, -5
  • Hot Cheesy Chicken Artichoke Dip IF, GF, SF, -5
  • Strawberry Flax Cracker and Spread IF, GF, SF, -5
  • Taco Dip IF, GF, SF, -5
  • Veggie Dipping Sauce IF, GF, SF, V, -5  
  • Sour Cream Dressing IF, GF, SF, V, -5
  • Velveeta (Make your own) IF, GF, SF, -5

If you’re not in the mood to cook, the following low-carb, gluten-free snacks are for sale: many of which, including Nui, is available on Amazon.

As you can see, the ketogenic diet offers tons of delicious foods and snacks you can eat to help manage your Celiac disease. Nui was created especially for Celiacs; we care about the quality of our ingredients and are hyper-vigilant during the baking and wrapping process. We only use organic ingredients where possible, and premium sweeteners (all of which are gluten-free). We advocate a low-carb lifestyle and follow this regime ourselves.

For more information on Celiac disease, be sure to check out the Celiac Disease Foundation (they are not affiliated with this article, but they are a leading expert on the topic).

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