I’m sure you have seen the rise of gluten-free options becoming more widely available. This is extremely helpful for those with Celiac disease. Why should eating a gluten-free diet be the only treatment for Celiac disease. Your healing gut should be given all the support it can get!
Join Me In A Yoga Practice To Support Healing Celiac Disease
What Is Celiac Disease?
Celiac disease is classified as an autoimmune disease where gluten (a protein found in wheat, barley, and rye) triggers the body to have an inflammatory reaction to gluten and can directly damage the epithelial cells and the villi in the small intestine.
The main western course of treatment for those with celiac disease is eating a gluten-free diet. This prevents future worsening of symptoms and in most cases allows the gut to repair itself. In studies where some patients have not shown a full intestinal recovery, it is of high consideration that it may be due to even a small contamination of gluten.
Celiac Disease and The Villi
In the lining of the small intestine lies tiny protrusions that are anemone-like hairs and called villi. They help to consume nutrients such as vitamins and minerals from your food.
Now, overtime celiac disease can damage the villi and create Villous atrophy. This means the long-haired villi become shorter and erode away which makes it harder for your body to derive nutrients.
When someone with Celiac disease stops eating gluten, their body will begin to heal itself pretty quickly. The villi and lining of the small intestine begin to repair themselves typically within 6 months.
If you learn visually, here is a video below to help explain the process
Holistic Approach To Celiac Disease
Though I firmly believe and have seen the body is capable of miracles and is not limited to any sort of physical ailment. If you look for proof of the body’s miraculous capabilities you can find it. These medical mysteries do exist and “the magic” within them should not be overlooked. This is why health problems should be treated holistically as we are multi-faceted beings.
Louise Hay, in her books You Can Heal Your Body A-Z and You Can Heal Your Life, she explains the concept that our body is a mirror to our internal world. That when we have dis-ease or physical ailments it reflects what is going on within our emotions and thoughts. She even goes to explain how directly our thoughts and emotions manifest within the body.
If you ever google ”metaphysical symbolism of (insert physical problem here)” you may be able to find incredible insight onto what's behind this physical imbalance. My best advice here is to specifically use only what resonates with you. Although it does take work to be honest, unbiased, and really search within yourself before deciding something is accurate or inaccurate.
For celiac disease, although it’s not life threatening, it can be heartbreaking to receive the news. It changes our way of socializing and we have to become a strong advocate for what goes into our body and making sure it isn’t contaminated. Celiac disease can make some long standing traditions difficult such as having birthday cake and eating as a family.
It can even feel isolating especially before so many gluten-free options came out. Through readjusting your diet you become more focused on what you consume and creating strong boundaries around your physical needs. This can be teaching you how to prioritize your needs, navigate cravings for what is detrimental to your wellbeing, and even make yourself at home in new traditions that fully serve you.
As a dependable crop, wheat was planted on barren land and symbolized rebirth and resurrection as it sprouted. In order for more wheat to be harvested, first, the original crop must die and be buried for it to sprout again. This may be why the Goddess Isis was called The Lady of the Bread because of her reviving her husband Osiris from the dead.
It is also a symbol for abundance as it needs to be cultivated. A big harvest meant it would feed people throughout the year. This was common throughout many traditions and referenced throughout paganism as well as the bible. This cultivation and abundance of wheat was also associated with the Greek goddess of fertility, Demter.
With celiac disease, those who are affected by it have to adopt new ways of nourishing themselves and find new meanings of abundance. With wheat being a denser and heavier substance not consuming it clears the intestinal tract and therefore correlational stickier energy. This can create a ripple effect on each family member as a whole due to a change in traditional foods served and can be a symbol of a shift in consciousness within a whole generation. This can be especially true due to the fact celiac disease is often genetic.
As matter cannot be created or destroyed, when nourishment in one place is lacking it will come through somewhere else. When there is an imbalance somewhere within the body, mind, and spirit, we as natural self-healers will create a pathway back to our center sometimes this pathway psychical experiences. As wheat is symbolic of rebirth, celiac disease is your body’s way of guiding you to new life.
Though yoga and celiac disease has not currently been investigated, Irritable Bowel Syndrome, IBS, and Inflammatory Bowel Disease, IBS, which present similar symptoms to celiac have been.
IBS and IBD are both umbrella terms that cover a vast group of symptoms. The symptoms presented include diarrhea, cramping, constipation, gas, bloating, inflammation, and even difficulty sleeping. They are very similar to the symptoms arising from celiac disease.
Yoga has been shown to be more effective in treating IBD than even other self-care methods. I will list more studies below in this section or you can skip down to the yoga asanas for a healthy gut to learn the physical practice.
There have been studies done proving yoga to be an effective treatment for IBS. Such as the 2014 study was published in the Journal of Pediatric Gastroenterology and Nutrition that followed the results of a 6-week twice per week Iyengar yoga practice on 29 participants with IBS symptoms.
They were compared to a control group of 22 participants that were instructed to continue their usual care routines. Many evaluations were taken both prior and post-treatment as well as a post-treatment 2-month evaluation. These evaluations include assessing overall symptoms, checking global improvement, pain, health-related quality of life, psychological distress, functional disability, fatigue, and sleep.
The results showed for the young adults (18–26 years) who completed the yoga displayed significantly improved IBS symptoms, overall function, psychological distress, sleep quality, and fatigue! For adolescents, the results only showed significant improvement within the physical functioning which is still an incredible effect of yoga on adolescents with IBS.
All the improved symptoms were maintained for the young adults’ 2-month assessment except for constipation which was not. For the adolescents, global improvements were not maintained which suggests they may need a more consistent yoga practice as a treatment.
Another study posted in the European Journal of Integrative Medicine in 2015 showed that within practicing 3 times a week for 12-weeks a Remedial Yoga Module resulted in significant improvements within IBS symptoms and quality of life! Also, improvements within anxiety and depression, global improvements, and autonomic function were reported. Even a decrease in the need for medicines or supplements were seen.
The gut-brain axis is where a two-way street or bidirectional communication happens between your gut and your brain. This is through the Enteric Nervous System and the Central Nervous System talking to each other. This means not only does your brain affect your gut, but what happens in your gut affects your brain directly.
The Enteric Nervous System, ENS, is known as the “second brain” due to the fact it can function independently of the CNS. It has even been uncovered that the ENS forms before the Central Nervous System (brain and spinal cord) which could entail why our gut health is so impactful.
The ENS covers the gastrointestinal tract with neurons that then control functions such as digestive motility, gastric acid secretion, and communicating the state of the gastrointestinal tract to the CNS.
The ENS and The Vagus Nerve
The ENS communicates to the CNS through both the Parasympathetic and Sympathetic autonomic nervous systems. The ENS uses the prevertebral ganglia to communicate through the Sympathetic and the vagus nerve to communicate through the Parasympathetic.
Now, in this next part, we will link just how the vagus nerve, ENS, and celiac disease are intertwined. The vagus nerve is the longest nerve in your body and it impacts many functions such as digestion, immune responses, and your mood. This study explains the vagus nerve is being looked at as additional support for treating IBD, depression, and even PTSD. With vagus nerve stimulation the vagal tone is increased and it inhibits cytokine production.
The vagal tone correlates to the body’s ability to return to homeostasis after stress. The vagus nerve is an important component in the intestinal immune system and plays a role in the first line of defense against inflammation. This is due to the vagal fibers that connect the CNS to the intestinal immune system at the neuroendocrine-immune axis.
Inflammatory cytokines such as tumor-necrosis factor are produced by macrophages in response to gluten. If you watched the video at the top it will explain this! One of the pathways the vagus nerve mediates inflammation is through the cholinergic anti-inflammatory pathway (CAIP). The CAIP access is actually more beneficial in reducing inflammation immediately in comparison to the vagus nerves other pathways such as the HPA axis and the splenic sympathetic anti-inflammatory pathway.
Thus stimulating the vagus nerve, typically through electrical impulses, can reduce the inflammation in the intestinal lining and help inflammatory diseases related to the gut immune system. Though there are other natural ways to stimulate the vagus nerve and possibly help the body heal on its journey with celiac disease.
Yoga Asanas For A Healthy Gut
Twists – Both supine (laying down) or sitting twists will massage the internal organs and help relax the stomachs connective tissue is tight this can cause inflammation and
Twist to the right side first which will move digested food through your colon and then twist to the left to guide it downward towards its path of elimination.
Balasana Childs pose – provides an abdominal massage to internal organs and relaxes the body into the
For a more restorative option place the head down on the matt and gently roll the head back and forth to massage the forehead.
Pavanamuktasana Wind relieving pose – laying on your back bring your knees towards your chest so that your stomach is compressed gently; you can place a strap around the shins in case you are not able to reach your hands to the shins
For an added relief on the exhale you can bring the legs slightly inwards and slightly outwards on the inhale creating more movement within the intestines.
Supta Baddha Konasana Reclining Butterfly – this pose can be made more restorative with two pillows placed under the outsides of the legs right at the hips and with a bolster under the back (if you have one available)
Yoga For Vagus Nerve Stimulation
It can feel necessary to commit and immerse ourselves in a daily 60 minute yoga practice in order to reap results especially when it comes to wanting to support the healing of celiac disease, but that might not be what is available to us at the moment.
These practices can be done for 2 to 5 minutes multiple times throughout the day and they will help stimulate the vagus nerve. The main focus is to allow yourself to sink into a relaxed state which taking 5 minutes to consciously breathe deeply can do.
This study that was referenced above in correlation to how stimulating the vagus nerve can reduce intestinal inflammation helping IBD, anxiety, depression, and even celiac disease does reference using an electric impulse to stimulate the vagus nerve although these below are other natural ways to do it.
Bhramari Pranayama – the humming bee pranayama technique involves humming which stimulates the vagus nerve
Deep Belly Breathing – slow deep diaphragmatic belly breathing with an exhale longer than the inhale into your yoga practice will shift your body into its parasympathetic system (rest and digest mode) and stimulate the vagus nerve
You can add this into your practice after savasana and remain laying down before rising or by itself as a pranayama practice
Smile – branches of the vagus nerve link into the muscles of your face which means by relaxing your jaw lifting the corners of your mouth you can increase vagal tone
Gargling – gargling water will activate the vagus nerve within
Massage – you can massage your neck along the carotid sinus which is on both sides of your neck beneath the corner of your jaw