A Gluten-free Diet has become a buzz –phrase lately and more products than ever are available to consumers. This may have you wondering what exactly is gluten and why are people trying to avoid it?
Let me begin by explaining what gluten is and why it is necessary for people with celiac disease to avoid it. There is so much misconception about gluten and as a person with celiac disease I want to share accurate information.
Gluten and Celiac Disease
Gluten is a kind of protein that is found in many grains, breads, cereals, baked goods, cookies and crackers. But there are a lot of other foods that may contain gluten as well, such as soups, deli meats, sauces and some beverages. It is even found in some lotions, make-up, soap, toothpaste and medications.
People who have a genetic condition called celiac disease need to avoid eating gluten because this protein actually damages their intestines. It is important to know that this is not a food allergy, it is an autoimmune disease. In these individuals, gluten actually triggers their immune system to attack. But instead of attacking an invading germ, it actually attacks the body’s own tissue, namely the little villi inside the small intestine. Without villi, the person can’t absorb nutrients effectively. This means that no matter how much the person eats, they could end up being malnourished.
People with celiac disease can also suffer chronic gastrointestinal symptoms, such as diarrhea, abdominal pain or bloating. Children with celiac disease may be very irritable or have trouble concentrating. In adults, celiac disease might not cause digestive problems. Instead, they might have problems with their bones or joints, anemia, depression or anxiety, seizures, reproductive problems, canker sores or skin problems.
Not everyone who has celiac disease has symptoms. Even without symptoms, they may still have damage to their intestines, resulting in malnutrition that can lead to long-term problems, including anemia, osteoporosis, and even certain cancers. So while consuming gluten may not have an immediate reaction like someone with a peanut allergy, it can have long-term internal damage or health effects.
Now that you have the background on gluten and celiac disease, next month I will conclude this topic with details on the gluten free diet.Sources: National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse (NDDIC). Mayo Clinic, Harvard Health Blog, Fitness Magazine