Kissing Gluten Goodbye

For people with celiac disease, this happens every day.

It has a funny name and is fairly rare. As a result, most people don’t understand celiac disease. Want to be one of the educated folks who understand this difficult disease? Read on for a crash course.

Something Like an Allergy

When someone has celiac disease, his or her body has a negative reaction to gluten. This negative reaction causes the small intestine to go crazy. More specifically, millions of villi (tiny hair-like substances that line the intestines and help the body absorb nutrients from foods) get damaged whenever gluten is ingested.

Since gluten is found in all sorts of foods, it is difficult for individuals with celiac to get well-rounded diets. Rye, barley, wheat, and grains that come from these foods all contain gluten. Since these foods have to be avoided by individuals with celiac disease, people living with celiac disease are at high risk for some other dangerous conditions.

More Names, Same Problem. Celiac disease is known by a variety of names: celiac sprue, nontropical sprue, gluten intolerance, and gluten-sensitive enteropathy. The end result, however, is the same: an inability to eat foods that contain gluten.

To Complicate Matters

The most obvious complication that can arise as a result of celiac disease is malnutrition. After all, if you can’t eat a variety of important foods, you’re going to have a hard time staying nourished. This leads to dangerous weight loss, fatigue, and growing problems. But celiac disease’s complications don’t end there.

In addition to malnutrition, celiac disease increases your risk for type 1 diabetes, gastrointestinal cancers, and thyroid disease. As each of these conditions come with even more potential complications, recognizing and treating celiac disease properly is your best chance at living a normal, productive, and healthy life.

Find and Fix

Most of the time, individuals with celiac disease will suffer from some embarrassing symptoms. Diarrhea, weight loss, and abdominal pain and bloating are the most common symptoms, and these are often accompanied by depression or frequent bad moods. As these symptoms are often mistaken for indicating other conditions, it is important to undergo proper medical screening to ensure you receive a proper diagnosis. For an accurate diagnosis of celiac disease, you may have to undergo a physical examination, blood tests, and biopsies of the small intestine.

Once the condition is diagnosed, treatment is as simple as beginning a new diet that completely removes all gluten. Unfortunately, as easy as this new diet sounds on paper, it can be difficult in real life, as gluten sneaks its way into foods ranging from breads to sandwich meats. If you have celiac disease, you’ll also have to be on the prowl for foods that may have been contaminated with gluten products. Your favorite kind of ice cream may not contain gluten, but if it was made alongside a bread factory, you may have to find a new dessert of choice.

What to Watch

Wondering what foods you should avoid if celiac disease sneaks up on you? Have a friend with celiac disease coming over for dinner and want to make sure the menu is gluten-free?

The following are some of the items that contain gluten:

  • pasta
  • certain seasonings
  • dips and spreads
  • stuffing
  • thickening agents
  • non-dairy creamer
  • marinade
  • dry-roasted nuts
  • fried chicken
  • French fries (they’re often coated in flour)
  • modified food starch
  • wafers used in communion
  • cake flour
  • bread and breading used for cooking
  • couscous
  • sauces and gravies
  • yogurts that contain wheat starch
  • some wheat-free products
  • soy sauce
  • certain herbal teas
  • certain flavored coffees
  • beer
  • broths and bouillons
  • imitation meats

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