To be gluten-free: managing celiac disease one meal at a time

January 30, 2020

To be gluten-free: managing celiac disease one meal at a time
To be gluten-free: managing celiac disease one meal at a time 
The Celiac Disease Foundation reports as many as 1 in 100 people worldwide are affected by the overactive immune system disorder known as celiac disease.
What is celiac disease?
Celiac disease is a digestive issue that prevents the body from taking in nutrients from certain foods. When someone with celiac disease ingests gluten, their immune systems attack the tiny bumps, known as villi, that line the small intestine. The villi help your body absorb nutrients from food into your bloodstream. No matter how much food you eat, if the villi cannot do their job, your body will not absorb will not absorb sufficient nutrients.
How do I know if I have celiac disease?
Celiac disease is genetic. It is possible to have celiac disease and be asymptomatic, patients can experience symptoms due to stress associated with life events such as pregnancy and childbirth or surgery, physical injury and infection.
Common symptoms of celiac disease include:
  1. -Constant (chronic) diarrhea or constipation
  2. -Stomach pain or bloating that keeps coming back
  3. -Weight loss
  4. -Gas
  5. -Pale, bad-smelling stool
  6. -Unexplained low blood count that makes you feel tired (anemia)
  7. -Tingling, numb feeling in the legs
  8. -Infertility
  9. -Weak and brittle bones (osteoporosis) at a young age, or bone fractures
  10. -Teeth changing color or losing their enamel
In order to diagnosis celiac disease, your gastroenterologist will request bloodwork to check the level of infection-fighting cells known as antibodies and to see how these levels compare to the amount of gluten in your body; people with celiac disease have higher than normal levels of certain antibodies. The most accurate method of diagnosis is a biopsy of the small intestine to check for villi damage.
How to manage celiac disease
Eliminating gluten from your diet is the only way to treat the disease. Symptoms can begin to improve within a few days after gluten is removed from the diet. The small intestine should heal within three to six months, but it can take longer for some people. Progress is tracked through regular blood tests and, in some cases, another biopsy.
The key to gluten-free eating
Common sources of gluten include foods that contain wheat, barley, and rye. These ingredients need to be avoided by people with celiac disease. When eating processed foods, it is necessary to read food labels to ensure that what you are eating is gluten-free. The Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act (FALCPA) requires U.S.-packaged foods to state clearly on the label if they contain wheat.
Some ingredients listed on food labels are clues that the food contains gluten. Some ingredients to steer clear of are:
  1. -Bran
  2. -Bread crumbs
  3. -Bulgur
  4. -Cereal extract
  5. -Couscous
  6. -Cracker meal
  7. -Durum
  8. -Flour (enriched, graham, high-gluten, high-protein, whole-wheat)
  9. -Matzoh, matzoh meal
  10. -Pasta
  11. -Seitan
  12. -Semolina
  13. -Spelt
When eating out, ask questions about what ingredients are used to make a dish. Try to avoid cross-contamination. Food may be cross-contaminated with wheat in restaurant kitchens, but many places will accommodate food allergies such as celiac disease.
The Division of Gastroenterology and Hepatology at Saint Peter’s University Hospital offers expertise in the diagnosis and treatment of a wide spectrum of disorders including those of the stomach, small intestine, and colon. To learn more about our gastroenterologists, click here:

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