What is Celiac Disease?
Celiac disease is both a personal and professional topic of interest for me. It affects my family and many of my clients.
Unfortunately, the US still lags behind many other countries in research, diagnosis, and support. As a result, misinformation, myths, and doubts around celiac disease persist. This leaves millions of Americans suffering unnecessarily.
Increasing celiac disease awareness and education has become one of my passions. So, let’s discuss the facts!
Fast Facts About Celiac Disease
Celiac disease is an autoimmune disease that runs in families.
It causes the body to attack its own small intestine when gluten is consumed. This is the only autoimmune disease with a known trigger – gluten.
The only treatment for celiac disease is a 100%, lifelong gluten free diet. There are no medications to treat or cures for celiac disease.
The good news is that we know what to avoid in order to prevent the autoimmune response and miserable symptoms that typically follow.
FYI- Celiac disease, coeliac disease, celiac sprue, non-tropical sprue, and gluten sensitive enteropathy are all different names for the same disease. (My husband also calls it “bread death,” but that’s just his personal preferred name after becoming severely ill on a work trip to Germany.)
What Foods Have Gluten?
Gluten is a protein found in the grains:
- Oats (sometimes)
Even a little bit of gluten is a problem for people with celiac disease.
Cross contamination matters even if you don’t feel sick or not that sick. Each time your body is exposed to gluten, the autoimmune response is triggered. This causes serious damage to your body and can lead to long-term complications. #nocrumbsplease
When you are first diagnosed with celiac disease it can feel like everything has gluten in it. Fortunately, with the right education and support, you can safely enjoy a delicious gluten free diet both at home and while dining out.
The good news is that the majority of foods made by planet Earth are naturally gluten free!
Naturally gluten free foods:
- Fruits and Vegetables
- Legumes (beans, lentils, peas, peanuts, soy)
- Dairy (unflavored milk, yogurt, cheese)
- Meat (unprocessed poultry, beef, pork, game)
- Fish and Seafood
- Nuts and Seeds (raw and/or unflavored)
Additionally, there are numerous gluten free grains to choose from.
Gluten free grains:
- Buckwheat (not related to wheat!)
- Quinoa and Amaranth (technically both are pseudocereals)
- And more!
Certified gluten free oats are another grain many people with celiac disease can enjoy. However, this one is less straightforward.
A Varied Diet is Always a Healthy Choice
Grocery shopping can feel stressful with celiac disease.
It is easier to avoid gluten (and food allergens) by choosing foods from nature. Additionally, minimizing packaged foods saves time since you don’t have to read labels.
Plus, everyone benefits from eating a more varied, less processed diet!
When you do buy packaged foods, it is an absolute must that you read the label every time.
It takes a lot less time to read a label than it does to recover from accidentally eating a food that has gluten in it.
Symptoms following gluten exposure may last for weeks if you have celiac disease. Long-term exposure to gluten causes damage that may take years to fully recover from even after adopting a 100% gluten free diet.
A gluten free diet is not a choice for patients with celiac disease; it is a medical necessity.
Do you need support?
Even if you do not have celiac disease, you likely know or will meet someone who does. They may be in a family member, child, loved one, friend, coworker, or simply an acquaintance.
Celiac disease affects a person’s whole life. This can feel isolating.
You can provide compassion and support to those around you living with celiac disease. The first step is to become educated about the physical, mental, emotional, and psychological aspects of this autoimmune disease.
I offer educational classes to families, schools, businesses, fitness centers, and other groups.
Beyond Celiac. (2021, February 08). Celiac disease: Fast facts. Retrieved April 12, 2021, from https://www.beyondceliac.org/celiac-disease/facts-and-figures/
Beyond Celiac. (2021, February 09). Celiac Disease Symptoms. Retrieved April 12, 2021, from https://www.beyondceliac.org/celiac-disease/symptoms/
Celiac Disease Foundation. (n.d.). Celiac Disease and Gluten-Related Conditions. Retrieved April 12, 2021, from https://celiac.org/main/wp-content/uploads/2016/08/FINAL_Celiac-Disease-and-Gluten-Related-Conditions-Psychological-Health-Training-Manual.pdf
Celiac Disease Foundation. (n.d.). Mission & Purpose. Retrieved April 12, 2021, from https://celiac.org/about-the-foundation/mission-and-purpose/
Celiac Disease Foundation. (n.d.). Sources of Gluten. Retrieved April 12, 2021, from https://celiac.org/gluten-free-living/what-is-gluten/sources-of-gluten/
Disclaimer: I am not a doctor. This blog post is general information only and is not to be substituted for medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.