Research News

New study seeks to find holistic treatment for celiac disease

January, 2017    |

A new study out of the University of Calgary hopes to improve the quality of life for more than 110,000 Canadians living with celiac disease. The initiative, referred to as MOVE-C (Understanding the Relationship Between the MicrobiOme, Vitality and Exercise in Celiac Disease,) recently received a $50,000 grant from the university’s Faculty of Kinesiology.

The researchers are studying holistic, evidence-based approaches to help patients with this autoimmune disorder, which can cause bloating, diarrhea, constipation, and increased risk of intestinal cancers and osteoporosis. The team wants to discover treatments other than adherence to a gluten-free diet for celiac patients.

“Our focus is on helping people to improve their quality of life,” says researcher Justine Dowd, who was diagnosed with celiac disease six years ago. “Often, people are diagnosed and start to eat gluten-free, but still have a variety of negative symptoms.”

According to Dowd, just looking for the words “gluten-free” on packaging might not be enough to manage the disease in a healthy way. “Lots of gluten-free food is very processed, low in nutrition, and high in calories, which causes this perfect storm. People are often underweight when they are diagnosed with celiac disease, and then if they are eating over processed, high-calorie foods, they can gain too much weight on a gluten-free diet and are at risk of health complications like metabolic syndrome.”

In addition to promoting a whole foods diet, Dowd’s team will be exploring the benefits regular exercise can have on patients. “Exercise is good for everyone, and we want to see how getting people with celiac disease more active can get them to a healthier weight status and healthier in general,” says Dowd. Aside from the obvious benefits, exercise may also help to promote a healthy balance of gut bacteria. “There are preliminary studies that show that exercise has led to a healthier microbiome in animals and humans,” she adds.

Currently, the MOVE-C study is seeking adults who have been diagnosed with celiac disease and do not engage in regular exercise to participate in a free exercise program at the University of Calgary. Dowd has also developed an app, MyHealthyGut, that helps educate people about which foods are safe to eat, as well as record symptoms. Other key parts of the program will include interviews with experts on everything from acupuncture to sleep.

“It’s about empowering people to manage their celiac disease,” says Dowd. “I am so happy to be able to provide people with a program that is evidence-based. I wish I had had it myself years ago.”

For inquiries about the free exercise program, please email move@ucalgary.ca

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