The simple answer to that question is: it depends. When you consider that there are many athletes today who have celiac disease who can enjoy their active lifestyle, and others who cannot, you begin to understand why the question does not have a straightforward yes or no answer. Before we get into the details on how the condition impacts anyone who has it, let’s take a closer look at what celiac disease is.
What Is Celiac Disease?
Celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder that causes problems within the gastrointestinal tract. Some people have a genetic predisposition which means it can be a hereditary disease. Celiac disease causes the body’s immune system to overreact to gluten or foods that contain gluten. Essentially, when someone with celiac disease consumes gluten products the individual’s immune system damages the mucosa in the small intestine. This restricts the ability of the colon to absorb nutrients.
The Signs And Symptoms
There are several signs and symptoms that can point to the development of celiac disease. They include the following:
1 – Loose Bowel Movements
Those who suffer from celiac disease who do not eliminate gluten from their diet can experience chronic loose bowel movements. Stools may be watery, pale and malodorous.
2 – Bloating of the Abdomen
The impaired digestive process can lead to abdominal bloating. With the pressure that accompanies this, there may also be pain, cramping and possibly nausea.
3 – Flatulence
When the small intestine is unable to completely absorb gluten-rich foods, sugars are passed into the colon. They ferment there and eventually become gas that is passed through the rectum.
4 – Acid Reflux/Heartburn
Although this is not considered a typical celiac disease symptom, many individuals suffering from it have also reported the presence of both acid reflux and heartburn due to gluten.
5 – Constipation
Constipation is experienced by about 15% of those who have celiac disease. It occurs when undigested food forms a dry stool in the lower portion of the small intestine that cannot be passed.
6 – Skin Rash
Dermatitis herpetiformis is a type of skin rash that is triggered by gluten intolerance. It appears as itchy blisters on the knees, elbows or buttocks and often occurs in people with celiac disease.
7 – Weakness/Fainting Spells
As vital nutrients cannot be absorbed when the digestive process is disrupted by celiac disease, anemia can result. This leaves individuals feeling weak, low in energy and may even have fainting spells.
8 – Peripheral Neuropathy
If you have pain, numbness, and tingling in your feet, you may have celiac disease. Research has recently connected celiac disease to peripheral neuropathy although it affects only about 10% of those with celiac disease.
9 – Tooth Decay
Dental defects including tooth discoloration and damage to tooth enamel can occur in some celiac patients. Although more common with children, adults and children can develop ulcers in the mouth.
10 – Musculoskeletal Problems
Joint pain and aching bones are common in those with celiac disease. The lack of nutrient absorption in the digestive tract is the most likely cause of this symptom.
Does This Mean You Can’t Be An Amateur Boxer?
Now that you have a better understanding of what celiac disease is and what the symptoms are, how does all of this impact athletes? Well, if you are a boxer who has just been diagnosed with celiac disease you are going to have to make some radical changes in your life. This means you will have to take a multidisciplinary approach in dealing with the issues you are going to face.
Your first major lifestyle change in treating celiac disease will be changing what you eat. A strict gluten-free diet is the only known treatment to date and this may require the assistance of a nutritionist. All sources of wheat, rye, and barley from your diet means that to perform at your top-level as a boxer you will have to seek other healthy sources of carbohydrates.
Athletes should keep their intake of carbs at between six and ten grams per kilogram of body weight. Boxers can meet that requirement easily by eating rice, beans, cornmeal, cornflour, potatoes, nuts, tapioca, quinoa, fresh fruits, and vegetables. Once you adapt to the dietary changes your body needs, you will be able to continue to participate in your athletic pursuits.
Not only should the boxer be educated on what celiac disease is and what a gluten-free diet will entail but so should all trainers, coaches and staff who come in contact with the athlete. This is particularly important if the boxer is traveling to out-of-town matches and may end up in a restaurant for meals. Seeking places that serve gluten-free meals would be best.
What About Athletes Who Have Had Celiac Disease For A While?
The rules don’t change very much if you have been boxing with celiac disease for more than a year. The main treatment continues to be the lifestyle change that focuses on your diet. A gluten-free diet will still play an important role in your career. By seeking healthy alternatives to maintain the correct balance of carbohydrates in your body, you will be fine.
The answer to the question as to whether or not celiac disease will stop you from becoming an amateur boxer remains the same. Provided you adhere to a strict gluten-free diet, you will be able to become a boxer. It just means that your regular meals and fight prep meals will have to alter to meet the gluten-free requirement. If you choose to partially follow the strict gluten-free dietary requirements you will suffer from various symptoms of the condition which will hamper your ability to be a good fighter.
Being diagnosed with celiac disease is far from a life sentence as it can easily be managed with the proper diet. When you stick to the gluten-free diet not only will you be able to live without complications of celiac disease, you will be able to do anything including becoming an amateur boxer. If you want to get tested for celiac disease in the comfort of your home, check out this test from imaware.health HERE.