Most People With Gluten Intolerance Don’t Know They Have It:
Important Information About This Increasingly Common Condition
© 2018 Health Realizations, Inc. Update
Gluten intolerance,which includes celiac disease , is a digestive disorder that is triggered by the consumption of any foods that contain gluten -- a protein found in several common foods that contain wheat, barley or rye such as bread, pasta, cookies and pizza crust.
If you have gluten intolerance foods that contain gluten, including pizza crust, can prevent your body from absorbing important nutrients and eventually lead to serious illness.
Gluten intolerance doesn’t discriminate by age as it affects both children and adults. For people diagnosed with celiac disease, ingesting food containing gluten can wreak havoc on their digestive system.
The gluten protein alerts the body’s immune system and initiates a reaction by attacking the lining of the small intestine, resulting in a range of symptoms from diarrhea, nausea, headache, tooth enamel damage and abdominal pain. If left untreated over a period of time it can keep important vitamins and minerals like iron and calcium from being absorbed. The loss of these nutrients can eventually result in serious health complications, including anemia, osteoporosis and, in some cases, infertility in both men and women.
Gluten-Free Living, the New Health Trend
Gluten intolerance has been earning its reputation in the news and latest headlines as more people begin to turn to a gluten-free lifestyle. A recent study revealed that 15 to 20 percent of consumers are seeking out gluten-free foods, though doctors estimate that only 1 percent of these people have been diagnosed with celiac disease.
Even Oprah Winfrey jumped on the gluten-free train when she announced this summer that she was taking a “21-day cleanse” where she eliminated meat, dairy, sugar, caffeine and gluten from her diet.
Researchers believe that most people turning away from gluten don’t have an intolerance to it; they are simply choosing to follow healthier eating habits.
“Many gluten shunners may have no real trouble with gluten,” said Dee Sandquist, a registered dietician in Vancouver, Washington and a spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association in a USA Today article. “Instead, they feel better because they consume fewer fast and processed foods, which tend to contain gluten. They are eating more fruits and vegetables, which is a good thing.”
According to researchers, people who decide to self-diagnose as gluten intolerant should proceed with caution and be aware of the following:
Putting yourself on an unsupervised diet such as a gluten-free diet may inhibit your doctor’s ability to make a proper diagnosis due to masking symptoms and related problems that would fall under the diagnosis.
Maintaining a gluten-free lifestyle weighs heavy on your checkbook, as gluten-free specialty foods are costly.
An improper gluten-free diet plan can produce the opposite effect and become fattening due to manufacturers substitute foods like delicious wheat-free bagels and other bread products to replace gluten.
That said, there has been a sharp increase in the number of people diagnosed with true gluten intolerance in the past few years. In 2003, 40,000 Americans were diagnosed with actual celiac disease. Today that number jumped to over 110,000 people. Celiac disease goes beyond gluten intolerance in that it is not just a disease of malabsorption of the gluten protein but also an abnormal autoimmune reaction to gluten that is often genetic. It can, however, also be brought on by triggers such as trauma, severe emotional stress, pregnancy, illness and viral infection, and even post surgery. A study conducted by the Mayo Clinic showed that celiac disease is not only five times more common than it was 50 years ago, but it is now affecting the lives of 1 out of 100 people.
Based on study findings, scientists attribute the rise in the number of celiac cases to changes in eating habits, eating more processed foods, greater awareness and detection and changes in the way food is processed.
Are You at Risk for Celiac Disease?
Although the exact cause for celiac disease is unknown, it’s known to be passed down by an immediate family member who suffered from it. There are four distinct risk factors:
You can still enjoy a wide range of tasty foods if you have celiac disease … meat, fish, poultry, fruit, veggies, rice, potatoes and most dairy products are absolutely fine!
Type 1 diabetes
Autoimmune thyroid disease
Microscopic colitis, particularly colllagenous colitis
Many people continue to suffer from symptoms of celiac disease and live their lives with it without ever being tested for celiac. If left untreated, celiac disease can result in some serious health complications and diseases, including malnutrition, loss of calcium and bone density, lactose intolerance, several forms of cancer and neurological disorders such as epilepsy and peripheral neuropathy.
Living a Full Life After Being Diagnosed with Celiac Disease
Even though there is no cure for celiac disease, by making some dietary changes you can still live a normal and healthy lifestyle. If you have recently been diagnosed with celiac disease the first and foremost step to good health is eliminating gluten from your diet.
Foods with any type of wheat should be avoided. These include farina, graham flour, semolina, durum, barley, rye, bulgur, Kamut, matzo meal, spelt and triticale. Specific foods containing gluten to watch out for are:
Look for some healthy and delicious foods including dessert ideas to make. One example might be "Gluten-Free French Desserts And Baked Goods" cookbook with over 100 irresistible recipes for breads, tarts, cakes, puddings, custards, crêpes, cookies, brownies, and bars -- all made with gluten-free ingredients!
Cakes and pies
Now that you know what is on the “do not eat” list it’s just as important to know all of the foods that you can eat. The following list provides you with basic foods you can eat when adhering to a gluten-free lifestyle:
Fresh meats, fish and poultry (not breaded or marinated)
Most dairy products
Gluten-free flours such as rice, soy, corn and potato
For those of you who enjoy your sweets, pasta and breads, rest assured as there are more and more gluten-free items being offered in local grocery stores, restaurants and bakeries. Popular restaurant chains like Outback Steakhouse and Maggiano’s include a gluten-free menu offering to their customers and well-known manufacturers such as General Mills are offering gluten-free options in its Chex cereal and Betty Crocker cake mixes.
Creative Lifestyle Changes and How to Enjoy Eating Out
Rather than staying angry, frustrated and deprived after a celiac disease diagnosis of true gluten intolerance, you’re much better off taking a positive attitude and making the decision to take control of your health by making a few dietary changes. Below are some tips to making healthy food choices and being an aware and health-conscious consumer:
Look closely at food labels: Before purchasing any product read the label to know the ingredients and find out whether or not the food contains gluten.
When in doubt, contact the manufacturer: If you are unsure even after reading the ingredients whether or not the food product contains gluten, don’t hesitate to pick up the phone and call the manufacturer.
Don’t making eating out a scary experience:
Call the restaurant ahead of time to see if they have gluten-free options.
Become a loyal customer by frequenting the same restaurant so they know your preferences and needs.
Turn to members of your support group for restaurant ideas and options.
When eating out, mimic the same practices you do at home such as choosing simply prepared foods without breading, gravies and other questionable ingredients.
And for travelers, the Print Examiner put together a top 10 list of cities that offer the best gluten-free menu options. So if you have a choice, plan your next trip in one of these trend-setting cities!
Top Ten U.S. Cities for the Best Gluten-Free Dining
New York City
The Spokesman Review
Mayo Clinic, Celiac Disease