I’ve had friends throughout my life who have been diagnosed with Celiac disease but, to be completely honest, I never understood completely what that meant. I’ve had doctors advise me to give up gluten for health reasons but, again, I never knew how much gluten affected me.
Understanding Celiac disease and gluten intolerance is important because studies show around 3 million Americans are affected by it. As any health condition would, Celiac disease shapes the way you live your life. Knowing the facts can help you better support those in your life who are gluten intolerant, and can inspire you change your own habits for the better.
An autoimmune disease in which the small intestine is hypersensitive to gluten, leading to difficulty in digesting food.
When people with Celiac disease eat gluten, a protein found in wheat, barley and rye, their body employs an immune response to attack the small intestine. As a result of the attack, damage occurs in the small intestine, affecting its ability to absorb nutrients properly.
Celiac disease is hereditary and can develop at any age after people start eating foods containing gluten. The longer you leave it untreated, the more likely you are to develop a long-term health issue such as type 1 diabetes, multiple sclerosis, anemia, osteoporosis and more.
It is estimated to affect 1 in 100 people worldwide. Two and one-half million Americans are undiagnosed and are at risk for long-term health complications.
With so many people undiagnosed and potentially suffering from Celiac disease, let’s identify some of the most common symptoms. Some of the most common symptoms of Celiac disease include, but are not limited to:
- Chronic Fatigue
- IgA Deficiency
- Failure to Thrive
- Malnutrition or Vitamin Deficiency
- Brain Fog
- Ataxia (lack of muscle coordination)
- Abdominal Pain
- Acid Reflux
- Lactose intolerance
- Weight loss / gain
- Bone / joint pain
- Reproductive Conditions
- Skin or Dental Conditions
A proper diagnosis requires a celiac disease panel blood test and an endoscopic biopsy of the small intestine. If you feel you have a high number of these symptoms, please consult a doctor.
What can you eat?
Ditching gluten may seem impossible but the amount of gluten-free brands and gluten awareness are increasing. While you may have to let go of some of your past favorites, there is no shortage of foods to consume on a gluten-free diet. You can still eat all your vegetables, fruits, beans, legumes, nuts, meats and dairy (if you eat those). Grains and starch-containing foods that are gluten-free include:
- Gluten-free oats
- Nut flours
Whenever consuming processed foods, or foods you aren’t sure of, be sure to read the label because sometimes foods are processed in the same area, lending them to cross contamination. If you don’t have Celiac disease but want to give up gluten, you may experience less bloating, more energy, healthier skin, better digestion and weight loss.
I hope this helps you as much as it helped me to learn more about Celiac disease and what it means to be gluten free. I hope it will help you to be mindful of your own intake as well as your friends/family members.