Celiac disease is a genetic disease which affects almost one percent of the U. S. population. Surprisingly enough, almost 95% of people with celiac disease are either misdiagnosed or undiagnosed. Having celiac disease means that one’s immune system is attacking any gluten that has been ingested causing damage to the small intestine. The damage done to the small intestine will prevent absorption of necessary vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients. The only way to treat celiac disease is by removing all gluten from one’s diet. Celiac disease can be difficult to diagnose.
The symptoms are generally gas, bloating, diarrhea, weight loss, and fatigue. Many people suffering from these symptoms tend to self-prescribe solutions such as Pepto-Bismol or other such remedies for common indigestion. The only way to get an accurate diagnosis is from an antibody test done via a simple blood test. If necessary, a small intestine biopsy can be performed as well to provide a more concrete confirmation of the presence of the disease. The unfortunate reality is that there is no pharmaceutical treatment available. The only solution is to go “gluten-fee. Once gluten has been consumed, the individual will have to live with the consequences until the body has been able to rid itself of the gluten. Although the symptoms might seem bearable enough to continue consuming gluten products, there are a number of serious side effects to that decision. A person afflicted with celiac disease that goes untreated will likely suffer from infertility, some cancers, and most definitely malnutrition. Caring for a newly diagnosed celiac patient requires educating that patient on a number of topics. The first topic being that celiac disease is not short term.
It will require a lifelong lifestyle change that can be difficult for a number of people. Also, as celiac can be asymptomatic and is genetic in nature, relatives (if not already) should also be tested for the disease. Once the initial shock has been allowed to sink in, presentation of diet options need to be completed as treatment should begin as immediately as possible. It is important to know what “gluten” is. Gluten is found in wheat, rye, and barley. Any food item containing any of the previously listed items will no longer be consumable for a patient with celiac. Gluten “hides” in all sorts of different food items.
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Reading labels will have to become a part of the grocery shopping experience. Even foods like chicken, which might carry the assumption of being gluten free, have to be purchased with caution as chickens are injected with wheat fillers to provide the meat with more flavor. It should not be assumed that packages claiming to be “gluten free” are. The only way to be sure is to read the label and note the ingredients. Also, food items that are processed on equipment which also handle wheat items should be eaten with caution. The most obvious attack to a celiac diet is that on the carbohydrate food group.
Seemingly all bread items are no longer available including but not limited to: pizza, bagels, bread, pasta, and cakes. However, the good news is that with the rise in population of those afflicted with celiac, breads and other such carbohydrate products are being made with flaxseed and/ or brown rice. Instead of focusing on finding foods with a wheat base, one can look for breads made with rice, corn, potatoes, soybeans, or tapioca. Although eating foods from the dairy group can be troublesome when immediately beginning treatment for celiac, these foods can be added back into the diet after a few weeks.
It is okay to eventually eat cheese and milk. Most ice creams will need to be avoided as they most likely will contain gluten, especially those sporting fancy added toppings such as Oreos and/or cookie dough. There are a few other food items to take into consideration when planning gluten free meals. Processed and breaded meats along with breaded vegetables need to be avoided. Most canned soups, salad dressings, and soy sauce will contain gluten. Sadly, the vast majority of desserts will no longer be able to be enjoyed.
Although, one can now find on the shelves of some grocery stores boxed mixes for items such as brownies and cookies. Of course, being a product of wheat and barley, beer is also no longer consumable. The gluten free diet will take getting used to. It can be extremely difficult to give up foods (pizza, for example) that have become personal favorites. It can be made even more frustrating by the fact that symptoms generally take several weeks to go away. However, once the symptoms are gone, the freedom from pain and discomfort will bring much more happiness than a piece of toast.
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