Gluten-Free Diet Awareness Month: Can Seniors Develop Celiac Disease?

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Celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder that means the body’s immune system attacks the small intestine whenever someone ingests gluten. There is no cure for celiac disease, but symptoms can be virtually eliminated by following a gluten-free diet. November is Gluten-Free Diet Awareness Month, and it’s an excellent time for elderly adults and family caregivers to learn more about who needs a gluten-free diet and what a diagnosis of celiac disease really means for the family.

Can Seniors Get Celiac Disease?

Many elderly adults are surprised to learn that the upset stomach, skin irritation and gastrointestinal distress they’ve been experiencing recently are actually a result of celiac disease. More seniors than ever are being diagnosed with celiac disease as doctors understand more about the condition and how it manifests in the elderly. Too many people don’t believe that elderly adults can develop celiac disease, even if they’ve tested negative before. The truth is that the risk of developing celiac disease rises with age, with a third of new patients age 65 and older.

Is a Gluten-Free Diet Effective for Seniors?

Just as with other age groups, elderly adults that have celiac disease benefit from a gluten-free diet to manage their symptoms. Because the aging body is not as quick to respond to treatment, it may take longer for seniors to notice positive results when following a gluten-free diet.

Family caregivers with elderly relative that have celiac disease play an important role in helping them live successfully with the diagnosis. Many seniors depend on family members or elder care aides to do the grocery shopping and prepare meals. They also may receive meals delivered via community senior service groups. It really is a team effort between family caregivers, elder care assistants and the seniors themselves to get the gluten-free diet right so that it starts to have a positive effect.

Tips on a Gluten-Free Diet for Seniors

Family caregivers can help their elderly relatives with celiac disease feel better and improve their quality of life by doing everything they can to get them on a gluten-free diet. The first step is to connect with a good support group that includes doctors, dieticians and senior support organizations. They will provide the guidance needed to transition to gluten-free.

Family caregivers and seniors should learn all the different foods that contain gluten and learn to read labels for hidden ingredients. They should also clear out any foods that contain gluten at home to reduce any diet accidents. Filling the plate with delicious gluten-free meals will help the elderly person stay focused on the positive instead of pining for food they cannot have. Caregivers can also help them maintain a positive attitude and recognize how much better they feel while following the gluten-free diet.

This November is the ideal time for family caregivers and elderly adults that have been diagnosed with celiac disease to get more information about a gluten-free diet. There are plenty of online resources, community awareness campaigns and medical professionals that are supporting Gluten-Free Diet Awareness Month so that people no longer have to suffer with the ill effects of celiac disease.


If you or an aging loved one are considering elder care in South Riding, VA, please contact the caring staff at Assisting Hands today. (703) 982-0050.