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Do Sleep Problems Persist in Celiac Disease Despite a Gluten-free Diet?

Posted On January 12, 2016
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January 12, 2016

For individuals with celiac disease, gluten can be like a curse word to the body. Celiacs need to stay clear of gluten because their bodies cannot properly digest this protein, which is found primarily in wheat, but also rye and barley. In addition, organs of the digestive tract of people with this disease are under attack by their immune system. Removing gluten from their diet allows celiacs to have a drop in symptoms such as diarrhea, constipation, bloating, intestinal pain and nausea. But what about another issue that is often faced by celiacs? Do sleep problems persist in celiac disease despite a gluten-free diet?

What is a Gluten-free Diet?

As celiac and other gluten-driven issues develop and seem to be on the rise, retail vendors have thankfully taken note. Gone are the days where sufferers needed to feel like a red-headed stepchild because it was so difficult to follow a gluten-free diet. Today there are quite a number of gluten-free food items, and even restaurants that feature gluten-free options or even a separate menu.

If you want and need to avoid wheat and the like, it is very obvious that bread and pasta are big no-nos when following a gluten-free diet. Unfortunately, gluten can hide out in many processed food items like soy sauce, salad dressing, ready-made soup, gravy, beer and cold cuts. Reading labels helps avoid missteps. Nevertheless if you really miss bread or pasta, there are gluten-free substitutes on the market. And recipes can be adapted with a switch from wheat flour to rice, quinoa or flax to name a few.

Connection between Sleep Problems and Celiac

Besides the obvious intestinal issues with celiac, the disease can make its presence known in the form of fatigue, insomnia and even obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). There are a number of theories as to the why sleep problems develop for celiac disease sufferers. The theories range from poor nutrient absorption due to intestinal damage to low oxygen levels in the bloodstream that causes an increase in inflammation and anything in between.

Why can’t researchers agree on a cause? For some individuals, a gluten-free diet will decrease sleep problems. And for others, it doesn’t make a statistical difference. A study published in Alimentary Pharmacology & Therapeutics brought the fact that sleep problems can persist with a gluten-free diet to light. Not only did they find that following a gluten-free diet did not improve celiac sufferers sleep patterns, but participants who tested well on quality of life scoring were able to be restored by sleep. Based on their results, the researchers at the University of Naples concluded that sleep problems arose because individuals with celiac disease suffered from issues that adversely impacted time spent dreaming at night. Therefore, depression, anxiety and fatigue are more likely the causes of sleep problems than an issue with a gluten sensitivity.

No matter if you have celiac disease or not, it is always sound advice to follow some or all of the following suggestions to get better sleep:

Keep a regular bedtime schedule: Go to bed and get up in the morning at about the same time, even on the weekend or when you have a day off from work or school.

Avoid caffeine and alcohol: Keep to a minimum throughout the day and make sure there are a couple hours buffer between the last beverage of choice and saying good night.

Stay away from spicy, large meals and avoid gluten: Don’t allow your digestive system to take over the reins at night,

If you have been wondering whether or not your gluten allergy might be affecting your sleep or an indication of sleep apnea, contact one of our medical concierges today at 1-855-863-4537 or schedule a consultation when it’s convenient for you.

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