Selena De Vries, RD Answers Community Question – Celiac, Food Allergies, and Fatigue? (Part One)

Selena de Vries, RD

Selena De Vries, RD

About Selena De Vries, RD

  • Selena is a Registered Dietitian living with celiac disease who helps individuals that struggle with digestion find food freedom. At Healthbean Nutrition, Selena understands that celiac disease not only effects our physical health but also effects our emotional health. As such, Selena uses an integrative approach in the management of digestive health conditions. She offers free group support for those with celiac disease/gluten sensitivity as well as offering nutrition coaching for digestive health conditions. Services are offered both online and in the beautiful Okanagan valley.

Congratulations to Selena for her new posting as Director (BC), Canadian Celiac Association (CCA.) She brings with her more than 4 years experience in the medical field as a Registered Dietitian and hopes to put her excellent fundraising skills to use.  Thank you, Selena for stepping up to volunteer with the CCA – the national voice for people who are adversely affected by gluten!

Selena De Vries, RD Community Question 1 WPFor any of us who experience digestive health concerns,  we are all so familiar with the daily ups and downs with energy and the constant questioning of additional foods that are making us feel unwell.

If you are celiac, removing gluten in it’s entirety is needed.  But, what happens if we still feel unwell? Unfortunately, the research is slim when it comes to individuals with celiac disease and increased risk of additional food allergies (note, this is not the same as a sensitivity). However, there  are multiple factors that can effect how we feel, which have nothing to do with additional food allergies or sensitivities and, is very commonly, overlooked.

Below are the strategies I use with my clients before we may start looking to additional food culprits.

1. date of celiac diagnosis:

Typically, a newly diagnosed celiac will start feeling better within the first month on the gluten free diet.  However,  the villi, fingerlike projections that line your small intestine that absorb vitamins and minerals, can take up to 3-18 months to heal on the gluten free diet.  So, if you are still feeling unwell one year into your diagnosis, it may be that your villi haven’t had the full time to heal.

     2.  ensuring gluten is 100 percent out of the diet, consistently:

This is by far the most common reason why a celiac does not feel better.  Gluten is a sneaky, sneaky protein and can hide out in spots completely unbeknownst to you.  This is why it is extremely to important to meet with a dietitian with expertise in the gluten free diet upon diagnosis.

Common items that I see in my practice that may result in gluten cross contamination include purchasing GF grains and their products, lentils and seeds without a ‘gluten free’ claim, eating out without asking the correct questions on preparation methods, and purchasing from bulk food bins.

    3.  vitamin, mineral and additional health condition status:

It is quite common for celiacs to be deficient in certain vitamins and minerals because of the damage done in the small intestine where absorption occurs.

Those relating to fatigue would include iron status, Vitamin B12 status, and folate status. Additional health conditions that could contribute to fatigue include thyroid function and blood sugar status.

    4.  the gluten free diet:

Another common culprit of fatigue and low energy levels is the quality of your gluten free diet. Unfortunately, many individuals with celiac disease consume a diet that is too high in gluten free processed foods, such as breads, cereals, bars, and baked goods.  This results in a diet that lacks a variety of vitamins and minerals and a diet that is low in fiber which, ultimately results, in not feeling great.

Basic guidelines for a healthy gluten free diet that will result in increased energy levels includes the following:

  • Frequent eating for energy:  energy starts to dwindle after going without food at around the ~3 hour mark.  So, ensure to eat something every 3-4 hours to keep those energy levels stable.
  • Protein at each meal and snack: Protein choices help make you feel ‘full’ and keep appetite and energy levels stable.
    • Extremely beneficial protein sources for celiacs include beans/legumes, lentils, tofu, nuts/seeds and their butters, yogurt, eggs, fish, poultry and moderate amounts of game meat.
  • Limit gluten free processed foods to no more than once/day.
  • Eat a rainbow of colors each day.  The color groups include green, orange, red, yellow, blue/purple/black, white/tan/brown.
    • Most choices should come from produce items –  vegetables and fruit – with a few choices coming from well tolerated, whole, intact gluten free grains such as quinoa, black rice, teff, millet, sorghum etc.
    • Aim to get a minimum of 1/2 cup per color group (from fruits and veggies)
    • More ideally, aim to get two, 1/2 cup servings per color group (most from fruits and veggies, and a few coming from whole grains too)
  • Translation to your plate?  
    • Make at least half your plate non-starchy vegetables
    • Make 1/4 plate either fruit, starchy veggies (think root veggies) or GF whole grains
    • Make the last 1/4 plate from a protein

          5.  emotional well-being:

Very much overlooked in the treatment of celiac disease, is the psychological impact this diagnosis can take on your emotional health.  Due to the restrictive nature of the diet, it can be hard to navigate safe food choices in your social life.   Subsequently, it is common for individuals with celiac disease to suffer from depression and anxiety.  It doesn’t matter if your diet is 100 percent gluten free,  anxious behaviour and mood imbalances have powerful effects on the body and can manifest as physical symptoms.  Looking after your mental well-being is imperative in managing celiac disease.

If the above strategies do not work, we then start doing some investigative work looking at potential food sensitivities. Stay tuned for part two!

Healthbean Nutrition Celiac Disease Specialist A

Living in the Okanagan or anywhere in British Columbia? View Selena’s services or book an appointment!


  • “I contacted Selena when I still wasn’t feeling well a year after my celiac diagnosis. I’d read so much on the Internet I thought I knew everything I needed to know. I was wrong.  
  • Selena has important advice on how to do GF properly (it’s not as straightforward as I thought) and for regaining your health. She is organized, punctual, and professional.  And she has celiac disease herself , so she gets it.
  • I think a lot of us, by the time we’re diagnosed, have had more than our share of health care practitioners and may not want to bother with a dietitian.
  • Selena played a crucial role in my recovery, and I would highly recommend her, whether you’re newly diagnosed or just trying to feel better.”
  • Charlene (long-distance celiac disease client)

selena devries healthbean nutrition gluten free

  • HEALTHBEAN NUTRITION  specializes in digestive health.  We deliver easy to digest, bite-size pieces of information so our clients can, finally, achieve the healthy & happy digestive system they’ve been striving for. Learn more ...
  • HEALTHBEAN PHILOSOPHY– Selena employs elimination diets and/or a specific diets in accordance with her clients’ conditions, and only when deemed necessary.  She reserves advice about the gluten-free diet for those who require it – not those choosing to follow the diet as a lifestyle choice.  Expect clear, concise instructions on the appropriate diet for you and, maybe even some myth busting! Learn more  …

Selena knows first-hand how her undiagnosed celiac disease affected her physical and emotional health. After telling her that, “Well, you have celiac disease,” her MD suggested she, “google the diet,” and out the door she went. Sound familiar?

That’s why Selena established Healthbean Nutrition.  She is dedicating her education, personal insights and her own recovery to helping her fellow celiacs make this enormous lifestyle transition – and find  joy in eating again! Learn more …

Selena’s Road to Diagnosis

Selena De Vries RD, Celiac Disease Specialist

Selena De Vries RD, Celiac Disease Specialist

  • “When I was going through university, I was exhausted, ALL the time.  I had to drag myself out to hang out with friends, and if I had it my way I would have spent most days in bed sleeping.  It was not unknown for me to sleep 12-16 hours a day.  Call me crazy, but I related it all to the busy-ness of school.  I was even checked for anemia at one point (common with celiacs) and I was ‘fine.’  
  • The symptoms continued through school and the brain fog was undeniable.  I distinctly remember during my dietetic internship (like a medical residency except everything is nutrition based) at Kelowna General Hospital sitting in the office, charting on a patient and, literally, feeling like my brain was so fuzzy that I could barely keep my eyes from nodding off.  It was awful. 
  • Another thing I didn’t pay much attention to, was bowels.  I was always constipated.  Never the other way around. Never.  And, I also remember mentioning this to my gastroenterologist just before the endoscopy and he said ‘oh, well with your very low antibody levels and constipation, there is a very low chance that you are actually celiac but we will proceed with the endoscopy since you’re prepped and ready to go.’  
  • The piece of paper I received after the endoscopy said to follow up with my GP.  I did follow up with my GP and the report came back positive for celiac disease.  My GP said “well, you’re celiac.  But, you’re a dietitian, right, so this should be easy for you!”  
  • Perhaps I had a leg up in the nutrition part of it, but I think we all know that the gluten free diet is not a walk in the park.  And, although, I am so appreciative of the medical care I received, it did open my eyes to the lack of knowledge within the medical community when it came to celiac disease and the lack of support offered to individuals with celiac disease.  

That’s how Healthbean Nutrition was born!

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  • *Information and perspectives posted on  The Celiac Scene are intended to provide general information, without independent verification on the part of The Celiac Scene for  the accuracy of the information provided to it. The information is specifically not intended to be a substitute for medical diagnosis or treatment by your physician or other health care professional. Always consult your own physician or other health care professionals about any medical questions, diagnosis, or treatment, especially before trying any diet. Healthbean Nutrition does not accept any liability for any injury, loss or damage incurred by use of or reliance on any content contained herein.