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Celiac Disease and the Elderly

Celiac disease leads to damage in the microscopic finger-like projections (villi) that line the inner wall of the small intestine, reducing its ability to absorb valuable nutrients from food.

Once thought as a disease the mainly occurs and gets diagnosed in the young, doctors around the world are finding more cases of celiac disease in the elderly. Many elderly people have lived with the disease for decades, unaware that they have it and some are just developing it. Either way, if your parent has celiac disease, you will want to help him live with it by making some adjustments to his diet.

Celiac disease is an autoimmune response in the body to the reaction of gluten. This response then leads to damage in

Senior Care Milton: Seniors and Celiac Disease

the microscopic finger-like projections (villi) that line the inner wall of the small intestine, reducing its ability to absorb valuable nutrients from food. The common symptoms of celiac disease are anemia, diarrhea, and weight loss. While anemia is common in all patients – since the body is unable to absorb many nutrients – the elderly often have symptoms of constipation and obesity, making it unlikely for doctors to seek out a celiac disease diagnosis. And many elderly patients ignore symptoms because they seem not “too serious” and perhaps just the affects of getting older.

Yet, celiac disease can also be a dangerous diagnosis because it often leads to heart failure. Older celiac disease patients have an increased risk of heart disease, possibly because the chronic inflammation they experience while eating gluten. That inflammation causes fatty buildup and stress on the blood vessels that support the heart.

If your parent has been diagnosed with celiac disease, there is no cure, but you can help him manage the side effects of the disease and the damage it causes by making some changes to his diet. Invite a team to join you as you work toward eliminating gluten from his diet. It will help to have a nutritionist, as well as enlisting his senior care provider to help him shop, prepare and enjoy foods with little or no gluten. Some foods your parent is going to need to reduce or eliminate from his diet are:

  • Baked goods. Foods such as bagels, bread, tortillas, and waffles all fall within this category, many of which are considered breakfast foods. The good news is that foods such as eggs, bacon and fruit are still safe for your parent to enjoy with breakfast each day.
  • Desserts. This list includes items like brownies, cake, cookies, and pie. On a positive note, there are often gluten-free bakers in many areas so if your parent has a sweet tooth, have his senior care provider bring him to a local gluten-free bakery occasionally to fill that craving.
  • Pasta. Italian, Asian, or American, all pasta has gluten naturally. Again, help your parent shop and find gluten-free pasta if it is something he really enjoys.
  • Crunchy baked snacks. Pretzels and crackers both contain gluten. Have some raw vegetables and hummus if your parent is craving a crunchy snack.
  • Some beverages. Unfortunately, if your parent loves beer or other malted beverages, those drinks have gluten.
  • Many hidden items. Bread coatings, thickened sauces, many soups, and croutons all have gluten. Your nutritionist can help you spot these hidden gluten products and come up with substitutes that will keep your parent healthy.

Once your parent reduces or eliminates gluten from his diet, he should begin to feel better fairly quickly, and his body will be able to digest his food properly, getting the nutrients it needs from the food he eats.

If you or an aging loved-one is considering Senior Care in Milton please contact the caring staff at Stay in Place Senior Care today. (289) 997-6463 

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