I’ll have a slice of pizza, Oh and hold the crust please!

Not only are people avoiding carbohydrates these days, they’re also avoiding something called Gluten. Have you or do you ever feel: Bloated? Gassy? Fatigued? Tingling and Numbness in the hands and feet? These are among the 300 possible symptoms (click link for checklist) of Celiac Disease! What was once considered a rare disease that affected children has now been estimated to affect 3 to 4 million people in the United States. The list of symptoms might send anyone to their doctor! Everywhere I turn “Gluten” is the subject of conversation. It’s definitely on everybody’s radar. Just the other day I overheard a group of women who’ve apparently hopped on the “gluten-free” bandwagon talking about how they have been following the diet, none of which have been diagnosed with Celiac disease (I couldn’t help but eves drop) but they thought they should give it a try.  I thought to myself, what are the chances these lades who are lunching even know why they’re avoiding Gluten? Celebrities are praising the diet, so why not try it Right?

I pondered over writing this article, then decided while the Gluten Free craze has been mashed like a bunch of potatoes, the increasing amount of people who are possibly self-diagnosing or following a fad led me to share with you what you really NEED to know and that Celiac disease is extremely serious.

 

What is Celiac Disease?

First, it’s NOT an allergy. The NFCA (National Foundation for Celiac Awareness) states that Celiac disease (also referred to as celiac sprue, non-topical sprue, and gluten-sensitive enteropathy) is an autoimmune disorder triggered by consuming a protein called gluten, which is found in wheat, barley and rye. When a person with celiac eats gluten, the protein interferes with the absorption of nutrients from food by damaging a part of the small intestine called villi (Villi are small fingerlike projections). Damaged villi make it nearly impossible for the body to absorb nutrients into the bloodstream, leading to malnourishment and a host of other problems including some cancers, osteoporosis, infertility, diabetes, and the onset of other autoimmune diseases.

Who gets Celiac Disease?

It is a genetic disorder, meaning a parent with the disease can pass it onto their child through their DNA. In rare cases a traumatic event, pregnancy, a stressful event or infection can ignite the disease.

What the is Gluten?

Some Gluten Characteristics:

  • It provides the elasticity in dough-think of the reason why bread is soft and bendy-without it, bread would be “shapeless.”
  • It is the reason why dough rises, well one of them…
  • It’s why pizza crust tastes good-it provides a dense and chewy consistency at the same time. A cookie will be hard because of gluten.

The constituents of gluten actually include several proteins. Gliadin and glutenin are just two that have been recognized, both of which celiacs cannot tolerate.  As mentioned before, Gluten can be found in wheat, barley and rye. It doesn’t stop there, gluten may also be hidden in vitamins, make-up and even medication. Oats are naturally gluten-free, however, they maybe processed in a factory that produces or contains wheat which places the oats in a possible cross-contamination situation. There are several companies that are trustworthy such as Bob’s Red Mill.

On a positive note, with the growth rate of those being diagnosed with Celiac disease (forget the faddies here) the food industry is desperately trying to keep up with the need for gluten-free products. Good for those with true celiac disease!

Symptoms?

Too many to list (over 300), check out this site for more info (NFCA)

Testing?

  • Initially the doctor orders a series of blood tests (Antibody Celiac testing)-If your doctor suspects your symptoms are a result of Celiac disease he may order a biopsy (a small sampling of tissue).
  • Genetic testing
  • A Small Intestine biopsy (the biopsy is the “Gold Standard” for Celiac diagnosis)

Further resource on Diagnostics and Testing NFCA

Treatment?

100% Gluten Free diet-for life. There is no cure for Celiac disease.

Gluten Intolerance?

A term being tossed around so much lately that it needs a bit of clarification. Gluten Intolerance versus Celiac disease is undergoing evolution right now. I’ve had a few clients report that they’ve been told they are Gluten intolerant, also referred to as NCGS (Non-Celiac Gluten Sensitivity) and seems to be the resulting diagnosis for those who are testing negative for Celiac. In the case of possible gluten intolerance the individual still complains of many symptoms which have not being clarified as to their exact cause. The only way to decipher whether you’re truly gluten intolerant (at the moment) is to attempt an elimination diet that may alleviate symptoms you’re experiencing. Please note that a Wheat Allergy must also be ruled out and while the symptoms maybe different, some overlap (ie. stomach pain). Allergies typically produce a reaction known as hives, this alone might indicate a food allergy versus an intolerance.

My Thoughts Here:

  • Do not-self diagnose!
  • Refer to your physician if you have unexplained symptoms, especially an inability to gain weight, severe stomach pain, diarrhea-of which you should see your doctor for anyway!.  Those would top my list, however, don’t assume it’s Celiac disease.
  • Following a gluten-free diet just because you think you should may cause you to have nutritional deficiencies you are unaware of. In order to be diagnosed with Celiac disease it is important to AVOID starting a gluten-free diet as it may provide false testing.
  • If you’re diagnosed with Celiac disease and/or Gluten intolerance seek professional guidance from a DIETITIAN. A well-trained dietitian can guide you into the ins and outs of the gluten-free diet so that it’s not as overwhelming as you think. (Well, it will be a little overwhelming, but you don’t have to go at it alone!).
  • A Gluten Free diet is not a “weight loss” diet! In fact, those with celiac disease typically gain weight once they start consuming a gluten-free diet because their body is finally able to absorb the nutrients it needs. People see the word “diet” and assume it’s for weight loss, this is the extreme opposite, anyone with Celiac disease who is forced into avoiding Gluten will likely have a lot more to say on the subject. It’s not all fun and games.

While a serious topic, Let’s keep the subject light-hearted with some JOKES (unknown authors, found via gluten-free blogs)

  • You know you have celiacs when you “EAT before you go out to EAT.”
  • You know you have celiacs when you call a “dream about eating chocolate cake and pizza a NIGHTMARE!”
  • You know you have celiac disease when,”You have to bring your own gluten-free meal in fear of cross-contamination to a BBQ.”
  • You know you have celiac disease when “You’re excited your grocery store just started carrying Udi’s brand.”

For more information, click on the handy link for a compilation I’ve created!

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