Eating a gluten-free diet may be a popular tactic for weight loss, but it may not be necessary for most people – unless they are diagnosed with Celiac Disease or have non-Celiac Gluten Sensitivity (NCGS). Current estimates approximate that 1 in 100 people in the world actually have to follow this lifestyle to avoid long term health complications.
What is Celiac Disease
As per the Celiac Disease Foundation, Celiac Disease is a serious auto-immune disease that occurs in genetically predisposed people, where the ingestion of gluten leads to damage in the small intestine. Celiac Disease is hereditary, and therefore those with a first-degree relative that has it, have a 1 in 10 chance of having it themselves. Those with other auto-immune disorders are also more likely to develop Celiac Disease.
What happens in Celiac Disease when gluten is ingested?
When people with Celiac Disease eat gluten, which is a protein found in wheat, rye and barley, their body triggers an auto-immune response that attacks the small intestine. This damages the intestine’s villi, or small, fingerlike projections in the small intestine that help to absorb nutrients. Subsequently, when these villi are damaged, nutrients cannot be absorbed into the body.
Left untreated, Celiac Disease can cause:
• Weakened bones, due to lack of calcium and vitamin D absorption
• Infertility, also due to lack of calcium and vitamin D absorption
• Certain cancers, such as intestinal lymphoma and small bowel cancer
• Peripheral neuropathy and other nervous system disorders
What are the Symptoms of Celiac Disease?
Symptoms of this disease are mostly digestive. The digestive symptoms may include:
• Bloating & swelling in the abdomen
• Chronic diarrhea or constipation
• Fatty, pale stools that float
• Stomach pain
Sometimes, symptoms can be expressed in other ways. They are:
• Anemia from iron deficiency
• Loss of bone density
• Itchy, blistery skin
• Mouth ulcers
• Joint pain
• Cognitive Impairment
Children with the disease can be known to experience failure to thrive, so it is important to pay close attention to their symptoms and behavior.
Treating a Confirmed Case
To confirm a positive diagnosis, doctors will test for high levels of antiendomysium and anti-tissue glutaminase antibodies. They’ll do a complete blood count test, liver function & cholesterol tests, an alkaline phosphatase level test and serum albumin tests. You may also expect an upper endoscopy.
The only way to treat Celiac Disease is to permanently remove gluten from the diet. This isn’t easy, but working with a registered dietitian can help! Connect with one of our dieticians, click here.
Non-Celiac Gluten Sensitivity (NCGS)
Non-celiac gluten sensitivity is a condition in which an individual is unable to tolerate gluten-containing foods, and experiences similar symptoms as in Celiac Disease, but without any intestinal damage or anti-tissue glutaminase antibodies. Some symptoms of NCGS after ingesting gluten include:
• Gas or abdominal bloating
• Joint pain
• Brain fog
As in celiac disease, individuals with NCGS feel better by avoiding gluten-containing foods and food products.
Foods to Avoid
Avoid foods that contain the following ingredients when observing a gluten-free diet:
• Graham Flour
• Things labeled “seasonings” on ingredient lists. Some may include gluten-containing ingredients such as wheat starch, wheat flour, wheat crumbs and hydrolyzed wheat protein.
Use/Eat These Foods on a Gluten-Free Diet
• Arrow Root
• Flour made from rice, corn, soy, potato or bean
Naturally gluten-free products include: fresh fruits, vegetables, meats & proteins, seafood, lentils, and even the occasional glass of wine, distilled spirits and liquor, as they are appropriate for gluten-free diets as well.
Unfortunately, more than 300,000 people across the country with Celiac Disease have to follow a gluten-free diet, due to the unfortunate fact that even the smallest amount of gluten can trigger debilitating gastrointestinal discomfort.
Reading labels on packaged foods is particularly important, as packaged foods may not be free from contamination with gluten, even if they do not contain wheat, barley or rye, unless they specifically state “Certified Gluten-free”.
That said, staying gluten-free is certainly manageable and sustainable, because of the vast amount of resources that are available today, including working with a dietitian at Nutrition Link Services!
If you have any questions on a gluten-free diet, please reach out to us today at 845-566-3506 and we will get you connected with one of our registered dietitians to get started!