Community Blog

Gluten-Free Diet Awareness Month: Why Seniors May Need This Diet

By Vicki and Brian Day

November is Gluten-Free Diet Awareness Month, and it’s an excellent time for people to gather more information about it and the circumstances that might lead to adopting such a diet. Elderly adults have a higher than average chance of developing a medical condition that requires them to go on a gluten-free diet. Family caregivers, senior care aides and community senior services can all work together to ensure that the elderly adult is able to manage their symptoms by sticking to a gluten-free diet.

Here are a few of the medical conditions that may prompt a doctor to recommend a gluten-free diet in aging adults:

Crohn’s Disease
This is a long-term condition that creates inflammation in the lining of the digestive tract. It causes abdominal cramps, diarrhea, anemia, fatigue and weight loss. There is no cure, but symptoms can be diminished by regulating the diet. Many patients have found success in following a gluten-free diet.

Irritable Bowel Syndrome
This is a common intestinal disorder that causes bloating, gas, diarrhea, constipation and abdominal cramping. Some medications can help when paired with changes to the diet and stress levels. Many doctors recommend a gluten-free diet for their patients with IBS.

Celiac Disease
An autoimmune deficiency, celiac disease triggers the body’s immune system whenever gluten is ingested. It can cause diarrhea, bloating and cramping. It affects the lining of the small intestine and interferes with the way it absorbs essential nutrients. There is no cure for celiac disease, but a gluten-free diet can significantly reduce or eliminate symptoms.

Non-celiac Gluten Sensitivity
There are some people that react negatively to gluten and develop joint pain, fatigue, depression, gastrointestinal problems and diarrhea. One of the main differences between non-celiac gluten sensitivity is that there doesn’t appear to be the intestinal inflammation or long-term damage associated with celiac disease. Gluten-free diets can really help manage symptoms.

Wheat Allergy
Food allergies are not uncommon, and a whet allergy can develop later in life even if the patient has never before been allergic. Wheat allergies can trigger respiratory issues, rash, vomiting, nausea and diarrhea. Following a wheat-free and gluten-free diet is necessary for those with a wheat allergy.

Before putting seniors on a gluten-free diet, family caregivers should always consult with their doctor and even a dietician to ensure that such a diet will safely and successfully help them. Seniors that follow a gluten-free diet for medical reasons almost always experience a dramatic turnaround in their symptoms as well as for their overall health.

For true success on a gluten-free diet, elderly adults really need to depend on the support of family caregivers, senior care aides and other family and friends to provide them with appropriate meals and snacks and to help them avoid trigger food that might cause their symptoms to flare up. With Gluten-Free Diet Awareness Month, there’s no better time for family caregivers to empower themselves and their elderly relatives with information on this life-changing diet plan.