May is Celiac Awareness Month - Crozer-Keystone Health System - PA

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Published on May 08, 2013

May is Celiac Awareness Month

Aside from being somewhat carb-heavy, foods such as bagels, pasta and pizza, are seemingly harmless to your body — especially when compared to alcohol, fried food, and anything high in sugar and unhealthy fats.

Unless, that is, you’re one of the two million Americans with celiac disease and are unable to properly digest gluten, a protein found in the aforementioned foods and others that contain wheat, barley, or rye. For these folks, it becomes mandatory to have a gluten-free diet (although going gluten-free for non-celiac sufferers is not a good idea).

When a healthy person eats food that contains gluten their body allows it to pass through the digestive system without a problem, all while absorbing vital nutrients along the way. But when a person with celiac disease ingests gluten, their body will actually attack the protein and ultimately attack itself, causing damage to the small intestine and making it difficult to retain nutrients.

If you think celiac disease seems more common these days, you’re right. Doctors have only recently become better at diagnosing the condition, which has proven to be quite challenging in the past for a couple of reasons. For one, there are over 300 symptoms that can result from the disorder. This not only includes symptoms similar to your average gastrointestinal disorder, such as diarrhea and abdominal pain, but also irritability, tingling/numbness, mouth sores, infertility, and delayed growth.

Secondly, some people might not even experience symptoms at all, which makes it kind of difficult to identify the disease. But if it’s left untreated, you can develop further intestinal damage, as well as additional autoimmune diseases, thyroid disease, and cancer. All it takes is a couple visits to your doctor and a simple series of blood tests to determine whether or not you have the condition.

Although men and women of any age or race are equally vulnerable to developing celiac disease, your risk increases if you have either a family history of the condition, a pre-existing autoimmune disease, or certain genes that have been found in those with the disease.

So what’s the best way to prevent your body from attacking itself every time you eat gluten? Well, it’s simple: Don’t eat gluten!

Although foods such as bread and pasta are general no-no’s for the gluten-free dieter, you can find safe versions of them at your local grocery store, specialty shops, and even some restaurants. To do so, chefs whip up your favorite foods sans gluten by substituting regular flour with alternatives such as brown rice, corn flour, potato flour, and soy.

If you have any type of gluten sensitivity, here are some additional gluten-free foods you can enjoy:

  • Meat
  • Fish
  • Fruit
  • Veggies
  • Quinoa
  • Almond Flour
  • Tapioca
  • Buckwheat
  • Potato starch
  • Sweet rice
  • Lentils

Crozer-Keystone offers a range of board-certified physicians who are trained in the latest technologies and procedures to comprehensively diagnose, manage and treat gastrointestinal and liver conditions. For more information or to make an appointment, visit http://gi.crozerkeystone.org or call 1-877-CKHS-GI1 (254-7441).

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