What is a Gluten-free Diet?

January 1, 2012

Cesar Hernandez

What is a Gluten-free Diet and why is it needed?

A Gluten-free diet excludes all foods containing the protein called “gluten.” This protein is found in wheat, barley, rye and malt. Gluten is widely used as a food additive. There are many uses of gluten. Some of the uses are: food flavoring, thickening or stabilizing agent.

A Gluten-free diet is also the only medically treatment for Celiac Disease. Think about all products that we consume everyday that contain gluten. One example is bread, pastas,cakes, etc. In the recent years, manufacturers have seen the importance of manufacturing gluten-free products and supplying specific gluten-free vendors a high quality product. Gluten-free vendors will continue to expand their selections with better tasting foods such as pastas, pizzas, cookies, crackers, pastries, breads, cereals.

CELIAC DISEASE

(Pronounced: See-lee-ack)                  Video courtesy of NFCA Celiac Central

In an allergy, the body fights a foreign substance. On the contrary Celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder in which the body attacks itself when the protein “gluten” is found in the digestive system.

The immune system attacks the internal tissues of the small intestines called villi. When the villi is damaged, the body is not able to absorb the necessary nutrients into the bloodstream. Undiagnosed Celiac patients might lead to other physical problems such as malnourishment (loss of weight dramatically), infertility, diabetes, osteoporosis, memory loss, in some cases cancer.

Nearly 1% of Americans, 1 of every 133, has Celiac disease. But unfortunately 97% of people that have it remain either misdiagnosed or undiagnosed. Therefore, we need to campaign for Celiac awareness.

There are other names for Celiac. Outside of North America is spelled Coeliac. Celiac diase is also referred to as Celiac Sprue, gluten-sensitive enteropathy. It affects children and adults at any age.

SYMPTOMS

There are several symptoms manifested in different ways. Not everyone could have the same symptoms which makes this disease difficult to diagnose. There are about 300 symptoms associated with this autoimmune disorder. That is the reason why thousands of people are misdiagnosed every year. They are all gastrointestinal symptoms related.

The most common symptoms are:

  • Gas
  • Bloating
  • Abdominal Pain
  • Constipation
  • Diarrhea
  • Nausea
  • Fatty stools
  • Bloody stools

Researchers have also demonstrated that patients, including adults and children, with positive Celiac blood tests had shown no symptoms when they were tested. On the other hand, few patients have tested negative on blood tests but yet showed positive in the biopsy.

According to the University of Chicago Celiac Disease Center, most physicians learned during their school years that Celiac disease was so rare and also that they would never see a patient in their entire medical career.  They also mention that lectures on celiac disease have been between 20 to 30 minutes during four years of classes.

DIAGNOSIS

It is always difficult to gain an accurate diagnosis to determine if a patient has Celiac disease. What makes it difficult most of the times is that Insurance companies refuse to cover the expenses of complicated tests.

There are 3 options your physician can screen for Celiac disease. One of them is the most accurate, the small intestine biopsy. The other 2 options are the antibody test and the genetic test.

  • Antibody Celiac Testing.
    This is done to measure the anti-endomysium and anti-tissue transglutaminase. This is basically to determine patient’s body reaction in having the gluten protein. If the person has Celiac disease, it will show higher antibody levels. These test panels consist of Anti-Tissue Transglutaminase, Total Serum IgA (tTG-IgA) and anti-endomysial antibody (EMA-IgA).
    To get better test results, it is advisable for patients to eat regular gluten items so that it can be examined more accurately. If the result are positive, your physician will still have to confirm with a small intestine biopsy.
  • Genetic Celiac Testing.
    There are 2 genes that could indicate the presence of Celiac disease. Those genes are the HLA-DQ2 and HLA-DQ8. If a patient does not have those genes, Celiac disease is ruled out. On the other hand, if a person does have the HLA-DQ2 and HLA-DQ8, it does not mean that they have Celiac Disease either. However, they have a high risk in developing the disease at any time. To confirm they would need either the Antibody Celiac Testing or the more accurate one, the Biopsy of the small intestine.
  • Small Intestine Biopsy Testing.
    This is the ultimate and more accurate testing. This is mostly done if the patient received a positive Antibody Celiac Test or Generic Test results. The purpose is to determine if there is any damage to the villi which is inside the small intestine.

TREATMENT

The only treatment to Celiac Disease is a gluten-free diet. At the moment there are no medications, surgeries that can treat the autoimmune disease. There many gluten-free vendors that have available certified gluten-free products for the consumer keeping in mind the consumer’s safety. The gluten-free market is expanding every day with better tasting products. I greatly recommend that if you have been diagnosed with celiac disease, get yourself a very good book on a gluten-free diet eBook written by people that have celiac so that you would learned from people that are already coping with the disease.

ITEMS TO WATCH FOR THAT CONTAIN GLUTEN

  • Lipsticks
  • Toothpaste
  • Vitamins
  • Communion Wafers
  • Lip-gloss
  • chap stick
  • Soy Sauce
  • Lunch meats
  • Dairy Substitutes
  • Hydrolyzed protein
  • Dextrin
  • Licorice
  • Play dough
  • Modified Starch

Article Sources:

 
Donate Toward Celiac Disease Awareness through www.CeliacCentral.org

 

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