Celiac disease is a hereditary intestinal disorder that affects about 1 in 250 people. Gluten is a protein found in wheat, rye, and barley, and gliadin is the fraction of gluten that causes sensitivity and act as a toxin, triggering immune system responses that damage the intestinal cells which leads to the malabsorption of nutrients. Lactose intolerance is also common in those with celiac disease.
Celiac disease is now known to be a multi-system, multi-symptom autoimmune disorder. The reaction can not only trigger the gut tissue; it can also affect the neurological tissue, causing migranes, epilepsy, thyroid disease, and seizure disorders. Osteoporosis and dermatitis also result from the disease. Chronic fatigue, fibromyalgia, or irritable bowel symptoms can often lead to misdiagnosis. Infertility has recently been found as a result of the undiagnosed disease, due to the hormone imbalance caused by nutritional deficiencies. Onset can occur at any age, and 90% of the people who have the disease, don't know they have it.
Aside from having to scrutinize every food label, those who eliminate gluten from their diet also eliminate certain essential nutrients which must be obtained from other sources. Iron, calcium, B-vitamins, and fiber are usually lacking in the gluten-free diet. The damaged microvilli of the intestinal tract requires time to heal in order to process nutrients.
Managing a gluten free diet can be quite overwhelming at times, yet it is essential. The diet is the treatment. Even small amounts of gluten can cause harm. Be aware also that many items one would never suspect contain gluten, such as potato chips, licorice, salad dressings, soy sauce, some soups and chocolates.
The tests that are most often used to check for celiac disease is a blood test that looks for certain antibodies, and followed by an intestinal biopsy to confirm a positive blood test. There is also a genetic marker test available as either a blood or saliva test. If the genetic markers are not present, it is highly unlikely the disease will occur.
In the U.S., the FDA's Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act mandates that companies list the top eight allergens on any product label; wheat is one of them.
For more information about a gluten free diet, visit the Canadian Celiac Association website at www.celiac.ca
~ National Foundation for Celiac Awareness