By Nicole Loubier, CCSU Nursing Student | New Britain Health District at August 3, 2012 | 8:30 am | Print
Bread, pasta, pizza, crackers, and cereal are all common foods found in a person’s diet. What would happen if you couldn’t eat these foods? Each of those items contains gluten, an elastic protein found in wheat, rye and barely. Recently there has been an overwhelming amount of newly diagnosed people with Celiac Disease, a condition where the body cannot tolerate foods containing gluten. Celiac Disease is in found in 1% of Americans and most of them do not know they have it. It can occur regardless of age. According to the Celiac Disease Foundation, Celiac Disease is an autoimmune disease in which your body attacks gluten. The small villi that line your small intestines are destroyed when gluten is consumed causing inflammation. This results in stomach discomfort and decreased absorption of nutrients in your body. Celiac Disease is a serious disease that can increase the risks of lymphomas, cancers, and infertility. Knowing your body, symptoms, and sticking with a gluten free diet are very important.
Since 1950 there has been a dramatic increase in people diagnosed with Celiac Disease. There are numerous theories as to why Celiac Disease is on the rise, but the exact cause is unknown. One theory is the way in which wheat is grown, processed and eaten. The dwarf wheat grown in this country has changed the quality and type of gluten proteins in wheat. This creates much higher gluten content leading to inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract. The change in wheat combined with a low-fiber, high-sugar diet, environment, lifestyle and medication use puts people at a great risk for Celiac Disease along with other diseases.
Celiac Disease affects the small intestines, resulting in symptoms of stomach pain, cramping, diarrhea, constipation, nausea, vomiting, anemia, chronic fatigue and unexplained weight loss. People can be unaware they have Celiac Disease as they may present with no symptoms. Some may think that their frequent bowel movements and discomfort are normal when in actuality they have Celiac Disease. Once they follow a gluten free diet their overall health condition improves. Sometimes Celiac Disease can be misdiagnosed as these symptoms are similar in Irritable Bowel Syndrome and Crohn’s Disease.
There is no cure for Celiac Disease; the only way to treat it is to be on a gluten-free diet for the rest of your life. A gluten free diet consists of no wheat, rye, barely and sometimes oats. It is a high-calorie, high-protein diet consisting of mainly fruits, vegetables, protein, beans, and starches such as corn, potato and rice. Gluten can be hidden in drinks, sauces, spices, medications, and even cosmetics. A gluten free diet can be very hard to follow, but with the increase in gluten intolerance, the amount of gluten free foods available in stores and restaurants has grown. Gluten-free breads, pasta, pancake and waffle mixes, cereals, cupcake and brownie mixes can be found in many large supermarkets. It is a dream come true for people who must avoid gluten because they can now enjoy a wider variety of foods.
The gluten free diet has gained popularity. For many it’s a joyful relief from gastrointestinal upset while others find it a healthy way to lose weight. Whatever your reason is to follow a gluten free diet you should consult with your doctor before starting. If you have symptoms, you may want to be tested as well.