Some people dismiss the gluten free diet as a fad. But for people with celiac disease, a gluten free celiac disease diet is the only way to treat their illness. What is celiac disease? How do doctors diagnose it? And if you have a celiac diagnosis, how can you manage your illness through diet?
What is Celiac Disease?
Celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder that primarily affects the small intestine. It sometimes occurs with other autoimmune diseases, such as thyroiditis and Type 1 Diabetes. Doctors usually diagnose celiac disease in childhood. However, it may develop at any age. People who develop celiac disease generally have a genetic predisposition.
Symptoms of celiac disease tend to be digestive. They may include chronic diarrhea, abdominal pain, and abdominal distention. Children may experience delayed growth, delayed puberty, and failure to thrive. ADHD is sometimes linked to celiac disease in children. Constipation and vomiting may also occur as a result of celiac disease.
Adults may experience the above symptoms. In addition, adults sometimes experience other symptoms, including arthritis, fatigue, anemia, bone and joint pain, canker sores, dermatitis, and other symptoms. Because so many symptoms are not specifically digestive, it may take quite a while to decide to test for celiac disease.
Doctors diagnose celiac disease through a combination of blood antibody tests, intestinal biopsies, and genetic testing.
How a Celiac Disease Diet Helps
Celiac disease is caused by an intolerance of gluten. This is different from an allergy. A food allergy causes the body to see a certain food as an invader, and to release histamines to fight it. This can cause severe reactions throughout the body, including anaphylaxis, breathing problems, coughing, vomiting, and hives. A food intolerance means that the body cannot effectively digest the target food. This causes primarily digestive symptoms.
A strict, gluten-free celiac disease diet is the only known effective treatment for celiac disease. Avoiding gluten allows the intestinal mucosa to recover. As a result, this improves the patient’s symptoms and reduces their risk of developing celiac-related complications.
What is Gluten? Is Rice Gluten Free?
Gluten is a class of proteins in wheat, rye, barley, and triticale. Does rice have gluten? No. Neither does corn, though baked goods with corn flour often contain wheat flour as well. In addition, the following grains are different kinds of wheat, and they do contain gluten.
- Khorasan Wheat
A Diet for Celiac Disease
Celiac patients must strictly avoid foods that contain gluten. But it’s not just bread and pasta. Here are some other places gluten might be hiding. You can read more at the website of the Celiac Disease Foundation.
Bread, pasta, cereals, and baked goods are the obvious offenders. However, wheat may also be present in prepared soups, sauces, and salad dressings. Why? Because wheat flour is an inexpensive thickening agent. Soy sauce may contain wheat. The meat substitute seitan is made from wheat protein. Cheesecake may contain wheat flour as a thickener. Processed lunch meats sometimes contain wheat flour as well. If you’re not making your own, it’s best to check for products that are specifically gluten-free.
Three places you might not think to look for barley are in your beer, in food colorings, and, yes, in soups. In addition, beware of malt. Malt is germinated, dried cereal grains. And you will find malted barley in malt vinegar, malted milk, milkshakes, malt syrup, and numerous flavorings. Potato chips and other snacks may contain malt flavorings. Brown rice syrup may contain barley enzymes. The list goes on.
You can find rye in rye breads like pumpernickel, rye beer, rye cereals, and more.
What about oats?
Oats can be a grey area. Oats themselves do not contain gluten. However, processing oats often exposes them to gluten from other grains. Some varieties of oats cause symptoms in some patients, but not in others. Sometimes celiac patients experience symptoms that are similar to the symptoms of celiac disease, but those symptoms actually have different causes. The North American Society for the Study of Celiac Disease believes that oats can be an important part of a celiac disease diet. On the other hand, they also recognize that many commercial oat products are contaminated with gluten from other sources.
Safe Foods For a Gluten Free Diet
So what can you eat? According to the Celiac Disease Foundation, the following foods are naturally gluten free, and therefore safe for a diet for celiac disease. However, if you’re not preparing it yourself, always talk to your server or contact the producer of the product. Cross-contamination can and does happen in factories and restaurant kitchens.
- Meat and poultry
- Fish and seafood
- Beans, legumes, and nuts
Gluten Free Restaurants
As awareness of celiac disease grows, restaurants are offering more and more gluten free diet options. The following casual food chains currently have gluten free options:
- Boston Market
- Burger King
- Chick Fil A
- Chili’s Bar and Grill
- Five Guys
- In N Out Burger
- Mc Donald’s
- Old Spaghetti Factory
- Outback Steakhouse
- P.F. Chang’s
- Taco Bell
In addition, The Celiac Scene has an exhaustive list of restaurants that have committed to offering gluten free options to their customers. You can check it out here.
Recipes for a Gluten Free Celiac Disease Diet
Foodies rejoice! Even celebrity chefs are getting in on the action! Check out these gluten free recipes from Jamie Oliver. Jamie Oliver is known for his easy to prepare, family-pleasing healthy recipes. You’re sure to find one that you’ll enjoy.
A celiac disease diagnosis can mean a radical change in your eating habits. But the good news is, a celiac disease diet is a proven way to manage the symptoms. And it can be healthy and delicious, too.
Featured Image: CC by 0, via Pixnio.