National Celiac Disease Awareness Day
The 13th of September was National Celiac Disease Awareness Day, which is a time to not only educate the public about this particular disease, but also a moment to reflect on modern dieting, and healthy alternatives in today’s world. This specific date was chosen to honor the birthday of British physician and pediatrician, Samual, Gee, MD, who was the first to identify the connection between diet and Celiac disease. He is known for stating: “if the patient can be cured at all, it must be by means of diet.”
What is Celiac Disease?
Celiac disease is a genetic autoimmune disorder in which the ingestion of gluten causes damage to the small intestine. About 1 in 100 people around the world are diagnosed with this condition, states Celiac.org. When gluten is eaten, the body treats it as an invader, and attacks the small intestine with an immune response. The villi, or the small projections that are found in the small intestine, get damaged in the process, which does not allow nutrients from getting absorbed into the body.
This condition is genetic, meaning that it is something that individuals inherit from their family members. The onset can come at any age; and once diagnosis is made, strict avoidance of gluten is necessary. If the condition worsens, it can lead to other disorders, such as anemia, infertility and miscarriage, intestinal cancers, multiple sclerosis (MS) and osteoporosis, among others.
What is Gluten?
In order to avoid gluten, it is important to understand what it is, and what items contain in. Gluten is not itself a food, but is found in many food staples and medicine. It is essentially proteins that act like glue and bind food ingredients together to help preserve shape. Gluten is found in grains, such as wheat, farro, kamut, spelt, emmer, durum and farina. It’s commonly present in cereals, bread, pasta, sauces, salad dressings, and many types of Asian food, like soy sauce. In order to fully prevent Celiac disease, individuals must strictly avoid all types of gluten.
Other Associated Issues with Gluten
In order to be diagnosed with Celiac disease, a person needs to undergo a round of testing. However, gluten has been associated with other health concerns aside from this autoimmune disorder. Unfortunately, testing often doesn’t pinpoint the correlation between the issues and gluten, but an elimination diet has often revealed the connection. Due to the big increase of wheat products our society has started consuming in the last few decades, more and more health concerns are being attributed to gluten. Many people are sensitive to gluten, which leads to health concerns; however, unlike with Celiac patients, a small amount of gluten will not majorly impact their health. Here are common health problems associated with gluten:
- Abdominal Pain
The website PaleoLeap.com blames gluten for issues such as inflammation in the gut and oxidation, or damage to cells, and a leaky gut syndrome, which causes poor absorption of nutrients and an autoimmune attack that can often be the cause of allergies, such as hay fever. Although some medical professionals refute that gluten can cause these issues, individuals suffering have often found relief from their symptoms after eliminating gluten from their diet.
Many people believe that humans have not adapted to consuming so much gluten in our diet; this is why, some believe, that the proteins can cause so many problems for our health. Nowadays, it is easier than ever to find gluten alternatives in order to cook at home or eat out at restaurants. Below are suggestions for substitutions for products that contain gluten:
- Flour – There are many types of gluten free flour, such as those made from coconut, tapioca or buckwheat.
- Bread – Alternatives are made from brown and white rice flour, and coconut and almond flour.
- Pasta – Buckwheat, quinoa, amaranth, millet and rice are gluten-free side dishes alternatives; there is also a wide variety of gluten-free pastas.
- Oatmeal – While oatmeal is naturally gluten free, most varieties are cross-contaminated. Checking for a certified gluten free label is necessary, or purchasing substitutes, such as quinoa porridge.
- Salad Dressings – Many salad dressings have gluten, a healthy substitute is to use olive oil and vinegar.
Gluten has been found to be the culprit of many health conditions other than Celiac disease. If you believe that you may be sensitive to this protein, try eliminating it for a few months to see if symptoms improve.