Gluten sensitive, celiac, gluten-free…you hear these phrases more often today than ever before. But what does it all mean? Today, we will focus on Celiac. Celiac disease is an immune response in your intestine triggered by gluten in your diet. Over time gluten causes damage to the lining of the intestine and can result in permanent damage leading to malabsorption of nutrients. People at a higher risk for being diagnosed with Celiac disease often have another autoimmune disease, rheumatoid arthritis or are type 1 diabetics. Recent studies show that vitamin D deficiency and viral illnesses may also play a role. Symptoms of Celiac disease include diarrhea, bloating, abdominal pain and reflux. There are also non-gastrointestinal symptoms such as anemia, joint pain, a blistery rash, fatigue, headaches and neuropathy.
Celiac disease is diagnosed by a physician with either a blood test or biopsies taken during a colonoscopy or other procedure. There is no cure for Celiac but is often able to be treated successfully by a strict gluten free diet. Supportive care medications may help with bloating, gas and diarrhea.
To decrease symptoms and risking further damage to the intestine, it is important to eat a strictly gluten free diet. You should read the labels of all packaged food as gluten is often used as a thickening agent and is in more foods than you might think. Today there are many prepackaged gluten free items available at almost every store. To make these options taste more like the real thing there are lots of additives which don’t make them the best option for replacement on a routine basis but as more of a treat. Nutrient rich whole grains, rice, potatoes and quinoa should be used as sources of carbohydrates in your diet instead of prepackaged foods. If you do not have Celiac disease there are no health benefits to eating gluten free foods.
If you have symptoms consistent with Celiac disease, talk with your a doctor at Asheville Gastro about what testing and treatment may be right for you.