the patient celiac

Book Review: Understanding Celiac Disease

8 comments March 17, 2015

I came across Naheed Ali, MD’s book, Understanding Celiac Disease: An Introduction for Patients and Caregivers, in late 2014. I promptly downloaded a copy onto my Ipad, but I have been so busy that I was not able to read it until a few weeks ago. It is a comprehensive, evidence-based review of the history, pathophysiology, related disorders, research, ramifications, diagnosis, and treatment of celiac disease.

Chapter 7, titled the “Mental Outcomes of Celiac Disease” was one of the most detailed reviews I have come across of all of the psychiatric and behavioral problems that have been associated with celiac disease. These include problems with cognition (aka “brain fog”), hyperactivity, eating disorders, anxiety, dementia, and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.

The specific types of pain associated with celiac disease were discussed in chapter 9. I found this fascinating as I have personally experienced severe pain as a result of being “glutened” in the past, but I have not come across much written on this subject.  The 4 types of celiac-induced pain include bloating pain, autoimmunity-related pain (i.e. in diseases associated with celiac disease, like Sjogren’s syndrome), joint pain, and neurological pain (i.e. migraine headaches). Until reading this I book I was unaware that up to 40% of children and adults with celiac disease experience chronic headaches, usually migraines. It was a reminder that celiac disease is an often painful disease.

I was also intrigued by chapter 10 which was about natural treatments for celiac disease that may be used in addition to the gluten-free diet.  In this chapter apple pectin, marshmallow root, aloe vera, paprika, dandelion, yogurt, meadowsweet, chamomile, slippery elm, lemon balm leaf, licorice root, peppermint seed, and fennel seed were all discussed as having potential to help naturally repair the intestinal tract.

Lastly, I found chapter 13, “Celiac Disease and Exercise” to be fascinating as well. Over the last 2 years I have incorporated yoga into my life as a “treatment” for my autoimmune conditions, and Dr. Ali recommended specific yoga positions to enhance blood flow to the digestive tract, as well as other exercises.

Toward the end of the book the Dr. Ali  states the following:

“Celiac disease has been dubbed a jigsaw puzzle in the medical field, for it has daunted scientists and doctors alike.  For now, experts only have the pieces completed on one side of the full puzzle.  Finding a cure for any medical disorder takes time.  That is why patience is a virtue when approaching celiac disease.”

He also says:

“A person’s state of mind is very important when it comes to getting treated for a disease.  The gluten-free diet takes care of the physical part of the treatment, while mind-set, self-confidence, and self-esteem will take care of the state of mind that in turn facilitates faster healing of the body.”

I could not agree with him more! Thank you Dr. Ali for putting so much time and energy into helping others learn about celiac disease. Your work is greatly appreciated and I hope that many will read and learn from your book.

If you've read this far, I have a few questions for you:

1. Have any of you tried any of the natural treatments that I listed from chapter 10. If so, were any of them helpful to you?

2. Have any of you read any good books lately that you'd recommend? They don't have to be gluten-related. I have Lissa Rankin MD's "The Fear Cure" next up on my reading list.

3. Lastly, are any of you planning on going to the University of Chicago Celiac Disease Center's annual Spring Flours benefit? My husband and I plan on attending and we'd love to meet you. Please let me know via email ( so we can try to meet up. It will be our last trip to Chicago before leaving the midwest.

Becky Rush
Hello Jess

I am on day 2 of a gluten free diet – I had raised IELs,with many common celiac/gluten intolerance symptoms, with a normal biopsy/villi. I am positive that the gluten free diet will improve my health.

For the past six weeks, I have been taking slippery elm, meadow sweet, licorice, cramp bark, mashmallow, chammomile, yarrow, milk thistle in the form of a tincture and herbal tea. I have seen significant improvement in reflux, and pain and tiredness. I would recommend this calming herb approach to anyone with intestinal inflammation.

7/21/2016 2:47:16 PM
In reply to christine.
Hi Christine,
Yes, Jennifer’s Way is an excellent book and I was able to relate to her story very well.
Thank you for the suggestion.
7/21/2016 2:46:35 PM
In reply to Andrea Nero.
You’re welcome Andrea! Perhaps you’ll be able to find it at your local library like Vik was able? I ended up buying it as a Kindle book so that I would have it for a long time and be able to highlight in it.
I hope you are doing well!
7/21/2016 2:46:10 PM
In reply to Vik.
Hi Gill and Vik,
It’s so good to hear from both of you! I’m hoping to learn more about some of the herbal digestive treatments as time allows.
Thanks so much for taking the time to read my posts! Well wishes to both of you!
7/21/2016 2:45:49 PM
In reply to Gill.
I could have written the above, Gill, I just passed 2 years. As soon as I read your review, Jess, I ordered it from our public library. I like how you included the mindset issues in your review, as it all gets gloomily discouraging sometimes. Thank you for the recommend. Also since you were asking about natural remedies, just looked at the ingredients of a digestive supplement I take called MegaZymes, made by Megafoods. The three digestive herbs are marshmellow root, astragalus root and ginger root.
7/21/2016 2:45:24 PM
Thanks for the book suggestion.
Here is another one for you “Jennifer’s Way” by Jennifer Esposito. Important story many celiacs can identify with…many mental issues too.
7/21/2016 2:45:00 PM
Andrea Nero
This looks very good, thanks for posting the review.
7/21/2016 2:44:33 PM
Thank you! This looks like a book I will enjoy reading.

I sincerely appreciate your sharing Jess as you have a busy life and your own struggles with CD … the information you share has helped me tremendously.

I’m almost to the end of my second year of my healing journey (DH diagnosed in May 2013) after decades and decades of searching for answers. I still have significant abdominal issues occasionally despite being totally compliant with diet, and my remedy is to use slippery elm as a hot beverage in lieu of food until things settle down.
7/21/2016 2:44:05 PM
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