Most of us don’t think twice before we eat bread, cookies or pizza crust. But for those who suffer from celiac disease, these foods can wreak havoc on the digestive system. The culprit is a protein called gluten.
Many people may not be familiar with celiac disease since it was previously thought to be common only in Europe. Recent research, however, demonstrates that it is prevalent in the United States. One study estimates that it affects one in 133 Americans.
Celiac disease strikes both children and adults and affects everyone differently. Signs of celiac disease include but are not limited to the following:
The wide spectrum of symptoms can hamper swift detection of the disease. The condition also
mimics symptoms commonly encountered with other conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome,
depression and ulcerative colitis. If celiac disease is suspected, your doctor will check for
substances called antibodies in your blood.”
If you have celiac disease, your body can’t properly digest foods that contain gluten. This decreases
nutrient absorption into your bloodstream. It’s important to control celiac disease since it increases
the risk of developing cancer of the intestine, osteoporosis and seizures. Recent investigations also
point to a link with schizophrenia.
Although celiac disease cannot be cured, symptoms can be managed by following a gluten-free diet.
This means avoiding most grain, pasta, cereal and many processed foods that contain wheat, rye
and barley. Oats also may be harmful – research is ongoing.
Despite these restrictions, you can still enjoy a well-balanced diet that includes a variety of foods,
such as plain meat, fish, rice, vegetables and fruit. You can also buy gluten-free bread, pasta and
Talk with your primary care physician or gastroenterologist if you think you have celiac disease.