The National Foundation for Celiac Awareness reports that about one of every 133 Americans has celiac disease. This genetic autoimmune condition responds abnormally to the gluten proteins in wheat, rye, and barley, damaging patients’ small intestines and interfering with dietary nutrient absorption. In 2014, Americans spent $973 million on gluten-free products including breads, pastas, and crackers. That amount rose $163 million from the previous year, per consumer researchers at Packaged Facts.
Scientists Study Various Gluten Removal Methods
Kansas researchers have begun the complicated process of cultivating gluten-free wheat for the growing number of celiac sufferers who have trouble tolerating common grains. People tend to believe the misconception that gluten contains just one protein or allergen, notes lead researcher Chris Miller. But prior investigation identified around 20 wheat protein fragments that set off celiac reactions. The current examiners hope to detect all of the offending components.
This long-term genetic research involves cataloging wheat’s DNA sequences that trigger reactions in celiac patients. During the next two years, the scientists hope their data will lead to breeding a new wheat version that’s safe for celiac sufferers to consume. Meanwhile, Italian researchers are using a specialized fermentation process to purge gluten out of wheat. Their initial studies show that celiac patients have 100-percent tolerance of baked goods containing this so-called digested flour.
A mix of genetic and environmental factors contributes to celiac disease. According to a 2013 Institute for Responsible Technology report, the genetically modified organisms (GMOs) entering America’s food supply midway into the 1990s may have been environmental triggers for abruptly rising celiac cases.
Physicians note that disease symptoms vary between patients. Even if the mildest form doesn’t produce any noticeable symptoms, you could be suffering from malabsorption, which blood tests can detect. Bothersome symptoms may include diarrhea, excessive gas, abdominal discomfort, weight loss, and other adverse effects that nutrient and vitamin deficiencies cause. Doctors prescribe Medrol (Methylprednisolone) for acute exacerbation cases and widespread complications.
These conditions occur with celiac disease commonly:
Osteoporosis or osteopenia (bone weakening)
Type 1 diabetes
Thyroid problems (mostly hypothyroidism or underactive thyroid)
Iron-deficient anemia (low blood count)
Nervous system disorders
Dermatitis herpetiformis (a skin disease involving intensely itchy and burning raised blisters)
To keep your celiac disease under control, eliminating gluten from your diet forever is vital. While you may know that the gluten in popular grains is toxic when you have this disease, it’s also a hidden ingredient in numerous packaged foods. Because minimal amounts can exacerbate your condition, doctors endorse strict gluten exclusion. But dietary abstinence isn’t enough. You also need to avoid exposure to airborne gluten flour dust.
Changing your diet abruptly can be an overwhelming challenge. Consult an expert celiac dietitian to recommend ongoing gluten-free eating habits. You’ll learn which foods to skip and what options to include for well-balanced nourishment. An experienced dietitian also can advise you about grocery shopping, food prep, and additional lifestyle resources.
Major dietary alterations may be necessary to stick to your gluten-free eating plan. Fortunately, maintaining those habits becomes easier with time, thanks to the ever-increasing availability of popular gluten-free options. Besides your local supermarket and health food store, you can order great substitutes from online specialty retailers.
Food and Beverage Tips
Forego all foods that contain wheat, rye, barley, brewer’s yeast, and malt. Oat intolerance is rare among celiac patients. But pure oats gather residual traces frequently from equipment that also processes gluten-rich grains. To be safe, skip oats unless the package includes gluten-free labeling and states that manufacturing occurred in a gluten-free processing facility.
The Whole Grains Council advises that most grains including buckwheat, corn, rice, millet, quinoa, and sorghum are gluten free naturally. But like oats, these and additional foods may include wheat, rye, or barley contamination. So select gluten-free varieties if possible. The FDA’s 2013 regulations mandate that only foods with under 20 gluten parts per million can feature gluten-free labels.
Read prepared food and condiment labels carefully. Check “Contains” statements and ingredient lists closely. You’ll see “wheat” listed on FDA-regulated products that contain wheat protein. These packaged foods may contain gluten. Distilled vinegar and alcoholic beverages along with wine are gluten free as long as manufacturers don’t add flavorings that contain gluten after production. But malt vinegar and malt beverages like beer aren’t gluten free. Some special gluten-free beers without malted barley are fine.
As your intestines go through the healing process, dairy products may be hard to tolerate. If lactose wasn’t problematic before your celiac diagnosis, you might be able to resume it after your gut mends. Until then, choose lactose-free or -reduced products if dairy worsens your symptoms. Opt for gluten- and dairy-free substitutes including soy, rice, and nut (hazelnut and almond) beverages with vitamin D and calcium. Compared to cow and soy milk, gluten-free rice and nut beverages provide minimal proteins per serving. Gluten-free lactase supplements might help you tolerate foods with lactose. Consult your dietitian or doctor about adding vitamin D and calcium supplements.