It seems as though everywhere you look these days there is a “gluten-free” option, whether it be at certain restaurants or on your grocery shelves. For those of you with Celiac disease or who are close to someone with it, you are well familiar with the term and what it means. Many of you, however, may not be entirely sure about how gluten affects the body.
Gluten is a protein found in many foods. Some obvious foods containing it are certain grains such as wheat, barley, rye, triticale, and spelt (and of course any foods made with these grains like baked goods, breads, pastas, and cereals). It is the gluten that gives these foods a certain texture and makes them chewy. Gluten is also found in not so obvious foods to act as a thickener, binder, and flavor enhancer. Some examples of these foods include (but are not limited to) soy sauce, beer, hot dogs with wheat fillers, gravy and cream sauces, Ovaltine, breaded foods, and even ice cream. When looking at the ingredients of a product, you may not see the word “gluten” rather it might show up as flour, graham, wheat germ, modified food starch, vegetable starch, or vegetable gum. Not only can gluten be found in foods, but also in medicines, vitamins, and lip balms.
So what’s the problem with gluten? According to the National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse, people who have celiac disease cannot tolerate it. When they “eat foods or use products containing gluten, their immune system responds by damaging or destroying villi- the tiny, fingerlike protrusions lining the small intestine.” (NDDIC, 2012) It’s the villi that allow nutrients from our food to be absorbed, so if they are damaged or destroyed a person becomes malnourished.
Some other terms you may have heard that are related to celiac disease are celiac sprue or gluten-sensitive enteropathy. In addition to affecting how food is absorbed, celiac disease is the result of an abnormal immune reaction to gluten. Although the disease is genetic, it may not be activated until later in adulthood or after an experience such as pregnancy, childbirth, a viral infection, surgery, or even severe emotional stress. (NDDIC, 2012) Methods of diagnosing celiac disease include blood testing and an intestinal biopsy.
A gluten-free diet is the only treatment for celiac disease. Which brings the conversation back to finding gluten-free items everywhere these days. This is fortunate, as it makes dealing with this disease much easier. Now when you see a little “GF” on the side of a box or bottle at Wegmans you will have a better understanding as to what it means. While there are more products available to people suffering from celiac disease, living with a gluten free diet can still pose its challenges. Sticking with the basics as far as food choices go is a good start. Taking away processed foods in general will eliminate many gluten-laden items. Fresh vegetables, fruits, lean meats, nuts, and oils are all gluten free and quite healthy for those with celiac disease. There are several grains they may enjoy also such as rice, quinoa, millet, amaranth, corn, and even buckwheat.
Hmmm. Vegetables, fruit, lean meats, nuts, oils, and occasionally some whole grains? This sounds very much like the Mediterranean Diet; the same diet touted as helping to prevent many other diseases such as heart disease and diabetes; the same diet that encourages extra virgin olive oil. Well, there you go. We just gave you yet another reason to stop into D’Avolio. Can’t wait to see you!
Salute To Your Health!
For more information on celiac disease, please visit:
American Celiac Disease Alliance www.americanceliac.org
Celiac Disease Foundation www.celiac.org
Gluten Intolerance Group of North America www.gluten.net
National Foundation for Celiac Awareness www.celiaccentral.org
Source: National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse (NDDIC) http://digestive.niddk.nih.gov/ddiseases/pubs/celiac/