So many people ask me what Celiac Disease means, and what gluten is. They’ve heard the term but aren’t quite sure of what it is exactly. Before writing anything about it, let me urge anyone who may think they have a gluten intolerance or as in my case, Celiac Disease, to seek the advice of a physician. A gastroenterologist is the intestinal phyisician who can best determine if you are suffering from either condition. That being said, I want to repeat that I’m not a doctor, nor nutritionist or any specialist who should assist in that capacity.
As a Celiac, I’ve learned to transition my kitchen into a gluten-free heaven! And the info I post here is my way of trying to help anyone who’s struggling as I was. Ok, well in my case, when I awoke from the endoscopy and the gastroenterologist ( a fabulous doctor I must say) told me with a smile, “We know what’s wrong! You have Celiac Disease.”
I was so relieved to finally have an answer after suffering terribly for a long time. When she returned to my side with a stack of papers, the first thing I thought was, “Well, I’ll just cut out bread.” Ha, little did I know! It’s soo much more than just bread! So, here’s where I hope to give you some insights into what gluten is exactly, and where we may find it!!
What is it?
Gluten is the protein found in wheat, rye, barley and in some oats. But gluten is also found in many other things, added by the manufacturer in the processing of their product.
It can be found in some vitamins, medications, cosmetics and more, even in lipstick or lip balm! The only sure thing you need to do is to read and study every label. It’s become second nature to me. As soon as I pick up something in a market or shop, I turn it around and read, read, read.
Now, how does it affect someone with an intolerance? Well, when people with Celiac Disease eat foods or use products with gluten, their immune system responds by damaging villi–the tiny protrusions lining the small intestine. The villi normally allow nutrients from the food to be absorbed through the walls of the small intestine into the bloodstream. Without healthy villi, that person can become malnourished. So, Celiac Disease is both a disease of malabsorption, and of an abnormal immune reaction to gluten.
Sometimes, Celiac Disease is genetic, running in the family; but other times it’s triggered by surgery, pregnancy, viral infection, or a serious illness.
What are the Symptoms??
They vary from patient to patient. They can become active in various parts of the body. Digestive problems are the most common, and can include:
Problems with the stool
Adults may experience the following as well:
Unexpected iron-deficiency Anemia
Fatigue and Irritability
Bone loss or Osteoporosis
Itchy skin rash called dermatitis herpetiformis
Seek the advice of a physician if you think you’re suffering from Celiac Disease or even gluten intolerance. The longer a person goes undiagnosed and untreated, the greater the chance of suffering long-term complications.
How Common is it?
Celiac Disease affects 1 in 133 people, and the numbers of people who are gluten-intolerant are much higher, near 18 million. It’s found in all nationalities, all around the world. Some doctors believe that a first-degree relative- a parent, sibling, or child- diagnosed with Celiac Disease, bring the statistics down to 1 in 22 people with the disease.
How is it treated?
The only treatment is a gluten-free diet. Doctors may ask the patient to work with a nutritionist or dietitian on a g-f plan. They will help you to also learn how to read a label and identify foods that contain gluten so you can make informed decisions. To enjoy a healthy life going forward, the person MUST avoid gluten for the rest of their life.
Some foods and products have ingredients with gluten as additives such as modified food starch, preservatives, and stabilizers with wheat. Things to look for:
Modified Food Starch
Textured vegetable protein
And these are the Foods to Avoid, according to the American Dietetic Ass’n in their 2007 recommendations for a gluten-free diet. It is NOT A COMPLETE list, but a place to start. Again speak to your doctor.
wheat (including spelt, kamut, emmer, wheat bran, wheat germ, cracked wheat, hydolyzed wheat protein)
triticale ( a cross between wheat & rye)
self-rising flour and white flour
The Following items may contain wheat, barley or rye:
brown rice syrup
candy ( filled chocolate bars have flour as a stabilizer)
cold cuts, hot dogs, sausage, salami, processed sandwich meats ( Check labels; some are g-f, but others are not)
marinades and salad dressings
rice mixes ( flavored and prepared)
seasoned tortilla chips
pre-seasoned turkey breast or pre-seasoned roasts
canned or dry soups
vegetables in sauce
regular pasta and noodles
cereal ( unless g-f)
some pie fillings or prepared fruits if thickened w. flour
cream filling in prepared puddings
many spices unless specified g-f: imitation vanilla extract, dry seasoning mixes, gravy extracts, dips for chips, condiments made from wheat-derived distilled vinegars,
In summing up, I guess the best thing to remember is that you need to educate yourself and read, read, read. The following list can help in seeking more information. People with celiac-Disease like myself, can lead healthy, happy, productive and busy lives. There is a sunny day ahead!
Also, when reading the labels, check for the line that tells you that the ingredients were processed in a facility that also manufactures or handles wheat. Those machines can cross-contaminate your food.
Thank goodness, there is much being done to safeguard us these days. There are steps being taken to enforce better labeling, and someday soon we’ll see the” G-F in a circle” labeled on every bottle and box.
For more information, please visit www.celiac.com
The following are sources you may access for information on Celiac Disease and Gluten Intolerance:
Celiac Disease Foundation
13251 Ventura Blvd, #1
Studio City, CA 91604
American Celiac Disease Alliance
2504 Duxbury Place
Alexandria, VA 22308
Celiac Sprue Association/USA, Inc.
Omaha, NE 68131
Gluten Intolerance Group of North America
31214 124th Avenue SE
Auburn, WA 98092
North American Society for Pediatric Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition
P.O. Box 6
Flourtown, PA 19031
National Foundation for Celiac Awareness
Ambler, PA 19002