Herbalism for Celiac Disease: Part 1

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It's weeks like this one when I'm reminded why I started doing what I do in the first place. My favorite restaurant ever got me a little gluten sick this weekend and my digestive system is NOT happy with me. It's okay and it happens. I do my best to avoid cross-contamination but sometimes my best isn't enough. And it hurts. Celiac hurts and there aren't a lot of resources out there for people like me to heal. There is no cure or medicines to fix the symptoms completely so I have to take healing into my own hands and make things like teas, fermented foods, and tinctures to help me feel better. 

If you are a fellow Celiac sufferer who is looking for self-care tools, you've come to the right place! It is my goal to share these resources with you so that you can heal yourself just as I have. All of my products are made with gluten free ingredients and I test everything myself before I send it out just to make sure. I'm hoping to someday have my products certified gluten free but for now know that Rowan + Sage is a safe space for you to heal and get the resources you need to support you on your journey. And, if you would like to connect with me personally for support and resources specific to your needs, I am always here for you.

So what is Celiac Disease?

Celiac Disease is an autoimmune condition where gluten in food triggers an immune system attack on the lining of the small intestine that causes a lot of internal damage and creates a host of unpleasant symptoms like bloating, abdominal pain, fatigue, malnourishment, anxiety, depression, and more. Celiac effects 1 in 100 people and requires both a genetic predisposition to the disease and an environmental trigger for its expression.

What that means is that people aren't typically born with Celiac Disease. I didn't express Celiac until I was 16 years old after having both Swine Flu and Mono. These two illnesses caused enough stress on my body that my gene kind of "clicked on", so to speak, and Celiac kicked in. My grandmother also had Celiac Disease that effected her autoimmune battle with Lupus and my father has it too. It should be noted that Celiac Disease is not the same thing as gluten-sensitivity and it is not a food allergy. Those with Celiac literally cannot digest gluten and it only takes 1/64th of a teaspoon of gluten to trigger an autoimmune reaction. I'll probably share more about the science behind Celiac in a future post!

Herbal Allies for Celiac Symptoms

Specific herbs such as peppermint, lemon balm, slippery elm, chamomile, meadowsweet, licorice, fennel, and a few others are used clinically to alleviate symptoms and support healing. I currently have three of these herbs available in tincture form so let's talk about those first!

Slippery Elm is a demulcent soothing herb that reduces irritation of the digestive tract and protects the mucous membranes from excess stomach acid; helps the body absorb nutrients from food, calms down cramping, excessive peristaltic movement and gas; minimizes inflammation and distention. This plant is so helpful in the first few days after exposure to gluten!

Lemon Balm is known as a gentle digestive relaxant clinically and in good ol' folk medicine. Lemon Balm reduces over activity of the digestive system, reduces bloating and stomach distention, relives anxiety caused by the attack, and helps you cope with the emotional trauma of being sick by uplifting your mood. This herb is great to take throughout your healing journey as you navigate your relationship with Celiac Disease.

Peppermint is a carminative herb that is rich in volatile oils that soothe and settle the gut wall, ease cramping, expel wind from the stomach and intestines, and is a gentle anti-spasmodic. Celiac attacks cause our digestive system not to work properly so this herb helps us digest food with less pain as our body continues to heal.

These plants are truly amazing when it comes to soothing pain in the gut, helping me digest food better, and relieving the emotional exhaustion brought on with every attack. I take 10-30 drops of these herbs up to three times daily to relieve the symptoms of a Celiac flare up or to ease digestion when I'm having general issues. I truly believe in the power of these herbs to heal and have seen results within 30 minutes after taking them! Mother Nature has given us all the tools we need and I am so grateful. If you are interested in adding these herbs to your Celiac medicine cabinet, you can purchase them online and make your own teas or tinctures. You can also find tinctures of Slippery Elm, Lemon Balm, and Peppermint in the shop.

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These herbs are best used when dealing with acute symptoms as you heal from a gluten attack. In my next post I will be discussing self-care for Celiac Disease and in the future you can expect to learn more about which herbs are right for you depending on where you are in your healing journey. Make sure to subscribe for updates and follow me on Instagram to stay in the loop! 

SOURCES: Yardley, K., MNIMH. (2013, January). Herbal Medicine to Support Celiac Disease. Retrieved January, 2018.