Gluten-Free Lifestyle Products
People who have celiac disease cannot tolerate gluten, a protein in wheat, rye, and barley. They have an immune reaction to gluten and the nutrients in gluten will not absorb properly. Gluten is found mainly in foods but may also be found in everyday products such as medicines, vitamins, and lip balms.When people with celiac disease eat foods or use products containing gluten, their immune system responds by damaging the small intestine and they become malnourished. Another form is Dermatitis Herpetiformis, where the immune reactions are a blistering rash.
The good news is that by using gluten-free foods, gluten free makeup, and gluten-free vitamins and supplements most people can reduce or eliminate symptoms.
What is Celiac Disease?
By Ruth Anna Spooner
About every 1 out of 133 people has it, but most of the general population do not know much about it: celiac disease. Unless someone in your family has celiac disease (or unless you have it yourself), you probably have no idea what celiac disease is or what it does.
Don’t worry; you are not alone. Even doctors and physicians nationwide frequently misdiagnose this disease due to lack of awareness about celiac disease and its symptoms. Celiac disease was once thought to be a rare childhood disorder, but it is finally becoming recognized as a common genetic disorder that affects children and adults alike.
What is celiac disease, anyway? People with celiac disease have a two-fold problem: (1) their small intestine has trouble absorbing nutrients, and (2) their immune system reacts abnormally to gluten, a protein in wheat, rye, barley, and any products with wheat. To understand celiac disease, you need to first understand the basic setup in the small intestine. In a healthy person, the walls of the small intestine are lined with miniscule finger-like protrusions called villi. These villi act as tiny gateways between the intestine and the bloodstream; they are responsible for allowing nutrients from food to be absorbed through the walls of the small intestines into the bloodstream. A healthy person has millions of villi, which allow for maximum absorption of nutrients into the bloodstream.
Persons with celiac disease, however, have immune systems that cannot tolerate gluten. This means that when these people eat foods with gluten, their immune systems go berserk and attack the villi in the small intestines instead. With damaged villi, fewer and fewer nutrients can be absorbed, which leads to malnourishment and host of other problems. No matter how much they eat, people with celiac disease can never absorb enough nutrients due to the damage in their small intestine.
Constant malnutrition can cause any combination of the following symptoms: abdominal pain, bloating, chronic diarrhea, vomiting, constipation, iron-deficiency anemia, bone loss, weight loss, growth impairment, infertility, fatigue, canker sores in the mouth, depression, among other symptoms. One reason celiac disease poses so much difficulty in identifying and diagnosing is because the disease presents itself through myriad—and often unpredictable—combinations of symptoms. Because there is no hard and fast list for celiac disease symptoms, doctors often misinterpret celiac disease symptoms and diagnose patients with other illnesses instead, illnesses like irritable bowel syndrome, intestinal infections, or chronic fatigue syndrome.
To date, the only cure for celiac disease is a gluten-free diet. If you are diagnosed with celiac disease, you will need to avoid gluten for the rest of your life. This diet regime gives your small intestine the chance to heal (healing time ranges from a few months in children to a few years in adults) and to repair and re-grow villi.
For most people, celiac disease symptoms should gradually disappear during the first several months of eating a gluten-free diet.
This type of a diet is, fortunately, becoming easier to manage nowadays because many common grocery stores have started to carry a variety of gluten-free foods. Basically, the gluten-free diet thoroughly eliminates all wheat, barley, and rye. This is easier said than done, because wheat and wheat byproducts are in virtually all processed foods as a thickening agent (check the labels of your canned foods and your frozen meals—you will nearly always find wheat on the ingredient list). And wheat is also, obviously, a main ingredient in breads, grains, and pasta. This eliminates the majority of foods from the average person’s diet, which can make grocery shopping or eating out a big challenge.
But many alternatives are available. Gluten-free foods, ranging from breads to desserts to frozen dinners to pasta noodles, can be made from rice-based, soy-based, or potato-based flour instead of wheat flour. Also, many stores now carry ready-made gluten-free cookies, snacks, breads, and some staple foods. Check the organic section of your grocery store and look for “GF” or “Gluten-Free” on the package.
Fresh and organic foods can also be a part of the gluten-free diet. Fruits, vegetables, rice, fish, and plain meat do not have gluten, so they can be eaten. Despite the confinements of a gluten-free diet, people with celiac disease can still eat a wide variety of foods, as long as they avoid gluten completely.