What is Celiac Disease?
Celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder that affects the small intestine and a body’s ability to absorb nutrients. The Celiac Disease Foundation estimates that 1 in 100 people have Celiac disease. Whenever someone with Celiac ingests gluten (products containing wheat, barley or rye), the immune system begins to attack the small intestine. The damage prevents proper absorption of nutrients. Many people with Celiac are often malnourished or may suffer from anemia or other vitamin deficiencies.
Is There a Cure for Celiac Disease?
There is no cure for Celiac Disease. Like other autoimmune diseases, the only way to “deal” with the disease is through proper management. The only way to manage Celiac disease and related symptoms is to adhere to a strict gluten-free diet. If not managed properly, Celiac can develop into other autoimmune diseases such as Type I diabetes, multiple sclerosis, anemia, osteoporosis, etc. – and worse, it can be a catalyst for things like intestinal cancers.
What is Gluten?
Gluten is a protein found in wheat, barley and rye. Gluten helps foods hold it shape and is often an essential ingredient in bread and many types of foods. Unfortunately in today’s highly processed food world, gluten is hard to avoid. The best way to avoid it, however, is to cook for yourself using fresh ingredients and avoid processed foods altogether.
- Wheat is commonly found in breads, baked goods, soups, dressings, pastas, sauces, soy sauce, oats (unless marked gluten-free oats), etc.
- Barley is often found in malt, food coloring, soups, malt vinegar and beers. Even Rice Krispies uses malt to coat their rice flakes.
- Rye is found in rye bread or pumpernickel bread, rye beer and some cereals.
Gluten is hidden in many medications, packaged foods, and other sources – Celiacs must read labels carefully to avoid gluten at all costs and avoid cross contamination.
Can’t You Eat Just a Little Gluten?
No, you can’t. Even a bread crumb from a shared cutting board can trigger an autoimmune response. People with Celiac must avoid gluten at all costs and be extremely cautious about cross-contamination.
What do Celiacs Eat?
We have so many options that while being gluten-free does sound restrictive, it’s really not! We can eat things like:
- Fresh fruits and vegetables
- Dairy products
- Gluten-Free oats
- and more!
A great source for more information about Celiac Disease is to visit the Celiac Disease Foundation online.