Gluten-Free Living: Celiac Disease Explained

Gluten-Free Living: Celiac Disease Explained

Celiac disease is a disease in which the lining of the small intestine becomes damaged. This damage occurs from the ingestion of gluten found in barley, wheat, rye, and other grains. It can be found in both children and adults and may develop at any time in life. Celiac disease is most common in people of European ancestry.

Symptoms of celiac disease include abdominal pain and distention, bloating, gas, nausea and vomiting, constipation, diarrhea, decreased appetite, anemia, malnutrition, and many others. Tests that can help diagnose celiac disease include blood tests, endoscopy, biopsy, and genetic testing of the blood. Treatment consists of following a gluten-free diet for the rest of one’s life. This means avoiding foods and medicines that contain grains such as wheat, rye, and barley and their derivatives. Some patients are even so sensitive to the presence of gluten that they can not even eat foods that are prepared near foods that contain gluten. Complications of the disease can include other autoimmune disorders, malnutrition, osteoporosis, fractures, infertility, miscarriage, and intestinal cancer. Other associated diseases and conditions include rheumatoid arthritis, lupus erythematosus, anemia, dermatitis herpetiformis, type 1 diabetes, intestinal cancer, and others.

By actively following a gluten-free diet, people can lessen the symptoms and effects of celiac disease on their bodies. This diet can be challenging though, as it requires strict avoidance of foods and medications that contain the above-mentioned grains. Following gluten-free diet guidelines and learning which foods should be avoided and which are allowed can help greatly with meal planning and make living with this disease more manageable. With the recent surge of Celiac disease awareness, there is even a whole food industry popping up to cater to Celiacs. Celiac sufferers can now find many gluten free options of their favorite foods that they may have once thought they had to give up forever. Many of these foods are easily made with simple ingredient substitutions, such as substituting regular flour for a rice flour.

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