Understanding Gluten Intolerance and Celiac Disease

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As medical diagnostic techniques become more and more sophisticated, we are learning about a number of food allergies. Although shellfish allergies and lactose intolerance are two fairly well-known dietary issues, doctors are now able to recognize some people’s inability to safely consume the widespread food dye, red 40, as well as a mineral that is essential for thyroid function, iodine. Also, gluten intolerance, or celiac disease, has also shot to the national spotlight. This article will provide a brief overview about this type of food allergy.

Gluten is the main protein component of popular grains such as wheat, rye, and barley. When people with celiac disease consume anything that has these grains in it, or anything that has been contaminated with gluten, it causes damage to their small intestines. Basically, there is an immunological reaction in the villi, or the little finger-like projections that line the small intestines.

Eventually, if a person who is gluten-intolerant keeps consuming the protein, it will damage their villi to the point that the small intestines lose their ability to absorb beneficial nutrients. In actuality, this is not an allergy, but a disease that is thought to be genetic. Therefore, if you think someone in your family has gluten intolerance, they should have genetic testing before the small intestines are damaged to the point where it can lead to malnutrition and other problems.

The long-term problems that can happen as a result of celiac disease include anemia, osteoporosis, nervous system problems, neurological issues, and gallbladder and pancreatic malfunctions. Therefore, it is a good idea to be able to recognize the symptoms of celiac disease. These symptoms can include the following:

Abdominal pains and bloating
Back pain
Muscle cramps
Diarrhea
Strange stool
Weight loss
Weakness

Once you realize that you have celiac disease, you need to completely cut gluten out of your diet. This protein is probably way more prevalent than you think-basically every food that is baked contains wheat flour, and therefore it has gluten. Gluten can come in some surprising places, including malted beers, pasta, and soy sauce.

Now that gluten intolerance is now realized to be much more common-estimates say that it affects 3 million Americans-there are several alternatives to wheat flour that are on the market and can be found in regular grocery stores. People can buy gluten-free crackers, pasta, and breads, which are good ways to keep these foods in your diet without damaging your body. For your own home-baked goods, you should look into using special non-gluten flour blends that try to mimic the texture of regular flour.  These include arrowroot, rice, and cassava flours, among others.

Gluten-free diets are becoming a larger and larger topic in healthcare. For more information on food allergies and other health issues, check out the Health Directory today.

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