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Older adults with celiac disease face a unique set of challenges,
ranging from financial to social. It can be difficult to adapt to – and
afford – a gluten-free diet. Limited mobility can prevent frequent
grocery store trips, and failing eyesight can make it difficult to read
the small print on food labels.

But seniors who are newly diagnosed should not panic. It takes time.
Nobody gets the gluten-free diet right overnight. Staying positive can
make a big difference. Focus on the foods you can eat, not the ones
that are now off-limits.


The risk for celiac disease rises with age. About 2 percent of older
adults have celiac disease, which is double the rate for the general

About one-third of new celiac disease patients are diagnosed after
the age of 65. Still, seniors with celiac disease have an average delay
of 17 years getting diagnosed – three times longer than younger
peers. Any senior who has symptoms of celiac disease (you’ll find
a list here) or who has a family member with celiac disease should be

Older adults usually show symptoms that are similar to those in
younger celiac patients, but older adults sometimes show less
prominent gastro-intestinal symptoms and more atypical symptoms
which can delay diagnosis. Older adults are more likely to have other
medical problems, which also can complicate diagnosis. And seniors
sometimes mistakenly attribute signs of celiac disease to the aging

Bone health

Celiac disease affects the bones and skeleton. Osteoporosis, a
disease in which bones become weakened, thin and brittle, can result
from celiac disease. Those who have celiac disease have a 3.5 percent
chance of being diagnosed with osteoporosis compared to only .05
percent in the general population. They also have double the risk of
bone fractures.

Seniors with celiac disease should consider being tested for
osteoporosis. Osteoporosis can be successfully treated, and the
treatments can help slow down bone loss and prevent fractures.

As well as being prone to malnutrition, celiac disease patients do not
absorb enough calcium and Vitamin D to build strong bone and
prevent it from weakening. Because they don’t absorb the nutrients
from food, they can also be underweight, another risk factor for
osteoporosis. Osteoporosis in celiac disease patients can often be
prevented or improved with a gluten-free diet. A gluten-free diet
and calcium with Vitamin D supplementation may be sufficient to
strengthen the patients’ bones and enable the patients to absorb
the nutrients they need to prevent osteoporosis. Weight-bearing
exercise is also beneficial for prevention.


Other complications

Recovery often comes more slowly for seniors with celiac disease.
Healing generally slows with age, and many older adults unknowingly
had celiac disease for years before diagnosis.

Seniors generally have the same associated conditions that can afflict
celiac patients of all ages. Age and a delay in diagnosis sometimes
can lead to more serious conditions, including autoimmune disorders
and some cancers. Seniors with a delayed diagnosis are likely to have longstanding nutritional deficiencies, particularly involving absorption

of nutrients. This can lead to conditions such as bone disease and
anemia, and often calls for extra supplements.

Seniors who are diagnosed but still have stomach pain or diarrhea
should not assume that celiac disease is to blame. Another condition,
such as lactose intolerance or diverticulitis, could be the culprit.


Successfully managing celiac disease as an older adult requires support
from a multidisciplinary team. Connecting with professionals and a good
support group can help seniors feel better and stay independent.

Your doctor and a registered dietitian with expertise in celiac disease
can provide guidance through the transition to a gluten-free diet.
Seniors who live in a retirement community should meet with the
nutrition professional on staff.

Having to follow a special diet can lead to a sense of isolation,
especially for homebound seniors. Dining out or attending social events
that involve food might not seem worth the effort. Celiac disease support
groups can be a great source of companionship for older adults.


The diet

You’ll find a list of foods you can eat here and some
general tips for those newly diagnose here.

Start by clearing the pantry and refrigerator of gluten. Then check the
medicine cabinet. In addition to gluten being in food, it can also be
found in your medications. Although most prescriptions are gluten free,
a few are not. Gluten is used as a filler in some drugs, but does not have
to be listed on prescription labels so it can be difficult to determine
which drugs contain gluten.  That means seniors have to check all
medications regularly. Refer to GlutenFreeDrugs.com for more
information, and set up a meeting with your pharmacist to review
your medications and identify any potential problems



The cost of a gluten-free diet can be especially burdensome for seniors
on a fixed income. Websites such as Gluten Free Saver and
Gluten Free Mall offer solutions to people with limited budgets or
mobility. Seniors who have trouble getting to the grocery store on a
regular basis can use some simple substitutions. For example, canned
vegetables, which cost less and keep longer, can be a good alternative
to fresh. Seniors with celiac disease can successfully manage their diet
without ever buying more expensive ready-made gluten-free products.
Naturally gluten-free foods are abundant.

Family or friends of an older adult with celiac disease should check in
regularly to make sure their loved one’s kitchen is stocked with nutritious
gluten-free foods.

Retirement living

Seniors should choose retirement communities where the kitchen staff is
trained and gluten-free protocols are in place. Ideally the community will
have a registered dietitian and pharmacist on staff. Seniors should meet
with the food service director at any prospective new home. Ask if the
staff has handled a gluten-free diet before or if they are willing to learn.
Speak to other gluten-free residents as well. Make sure the community’s
pledge to provide gluten-free meals is noted in your contract.

A growing number of retirement communities now have experience working
with seniors on a gluten-free diet. GenCare Lifestyle, with four locations in
Washington State and two in Arizona, is the nation’s first retirement
community to attain Gluten-Free Food Service accreditation.

This material is not intended to provide medical advice, which should be
obtained directly from a physician.

original from: http://www.glutenfreeliving.com/gluten-free-lifestyle/seniors/