Celiac Disease & The Benefits of a Gluten-Free Diet

Celiac Disease & The Benefits of a Gluten-Free Diet

Celiac Disease & The Benefits of a Gluten-Free Diet

As you browse the aisles of your local grocery store, “gluten-free” might seem to be just another buzzword in the food industry, but for people who live with celiac disease, it can be a much more serious issue.

What is Celiac Disease?

Celiac disease is a genetic autoimmune disorder caused by the body’s response to ingesting gluten, a protein found in wheat, rye, and barley. When someone with celiac disease eats something containing gluten, the body reacts by attacking the small intestine. Not only can this cause long-term digestive problems, it can also keep the body from absorbing important nutrients. Left untreated, celiac disease can result in a loss of calcium and bone density, lactose intolerance, infertility, neurological issues, and certain types of cancer.

The symptoms of celiac disease can include:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Chronic diarrhea
  • Nausea and/or vomiting
  • Weight loss
  • Fatigue and/or muscle aches
  • Headaches
  • Irritability and behavior issues
  • Heartburn
  • Acid reflux

How do you know if you have celiac disease? If you experience any of these symptoms over an extended period of time, you should discuss your concerns with your doctor. Blood tests to evaluate the levels of certain antibodies can be ordered to confirm the diagnosis.

Treating celiac disease starts with a commitment to following a gluten-free diet. There is an abundance of online sites that offer gluten-free recipes, gluten-free food lists, and menu options for a gluten-free diet. Gluten may be found in foods such as wheat, barley, malt, and rye, but can also be present in non-food products, such as lipstick, toothpaste, preservatives, vitamin and mineral supplements, and some prescription and over-the-counter medications. Your doctor may recommend supplements to meet deficiencies in calcium, iron, folate, zinc, and other vitamins. In cases of severe damage to the small intestine, medications including steroids may be prescribed to help your body heal.

Should we all be “gluten-free”?

For those people who have been diagnosed with celiac disease, a gluten free diet can be the key to living a healthy, active life, but should we all consider eliminating gluten from our diets? Not necessarily. If you experience the symptoms of celiac disease, but do not test positive for it, you may have a gluten sensitivity. In that case, following a gluten-free diet may improve or eliminate their symptoms.

Without any sensitivity or celiac disease, following a gluten-free diet may not have any benefits. Instead, you could be depriving your body of necessary fiber, vitamins, and minerals. If you are considering a gluten free diet for any reason, please discuss your plans with your physician and consider consulting with a nutritionist.