Celiac Disease

What is it?

Celiac disease is a genetic disorder that affects one in every 133 Americans, less than 1%, yet 33% of Americans are limiting their gluten intake. When an individual with celiac disease eats gluten, it sets off an autoimmune response, causing the body’s natural defense system to attack the lining of the small intestine. This in turn causes the small intestine to lose its ability to absorb nutrients and may lead to malnutrition or other serious complications. Basically, every time a person with this disease eats gluten the body will attack itself and the only treatment is a 100% gluten-free diet.

What is Gluten?

A protein naturally found in grains such as wheat (including spelt, kamut, farro, and bulgur), barley and rye. Gluten can be found in bread, pasta and baked goods. Gluten can also be hidden in several processed foods like soy sauce, seasoning mixes, vitamins, lip balm, salad dressings, soups and other processed foods.  It contributes to the structure of bread, it provides structure and texture to pasta, and the fermentation of barley contributes to malty flavor in beer.

Signs & Symptoms 

Include gastrointestinal problems such as diarrhea, constipation, abdominal pain, bloating, gassiness, weight loss or weight gain, cramping, nausea and vomiting. Other symptoms can include, but not limited to iron-deficiency anemia, infertility, skin rash (dermatitis), osteoporosis, headaches, heartburn and joint pain.

Getting Tested

Some people who don’t have celiac disease or haven’t been tested have similar symptoms they believe are triggered by gluten. If you suspect you have celiac disease, it’s important to consult with your doctor before attempting a gluten-free diet as it can impact your test results.

Naturally Gluten-Free Foods: 

There are many foods that are naturally gluten-free, such as fruits, vegetables, meats, eggs, beans, legumes, cheese, milk, yogurt, nuts and even grains such as corn, rice, amaranth, buckwheat, millet, sourghum, teff, and oats, and quinoa. Just be sure these items haven’t been contaminated with wheat during processing.

Research: 

In a very small pilot study looking at those with newly diagnosed Celiac disease, cognitive performance improved with adherence to the gluten-free diet in parallel to mucosal healing.

References

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