Living Gluten-Free

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What is Gluten?

Gluten is the composite of two proteins gliadin and glutenin. These proteins provide specific functions in processing foods, making their replacement difficult. Think of gluten as the “glue” that holds baked goods together.

Glutenin: dough elasticity, leavening, chewiness in baked products

Gliadin: gas-holding properties

Gluten is found naturally in all forms of wheat (including durum, semolina, spelt, kamut, einkorn and faro) and related grains rye, barley and triticale.


Celiac Disease

Celiac disease is a genetic digestive disease that damages the small intestine and interferes with absorption of nutrients from food. Celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder that can be triggered at any age, possibly by surgery, pregnancy, infection or stress. When people with celiac disease eat foods or use products containing gluten, their immune system responds by damaging or destroying villi—the tiny, fingerlike protrusions lining the small intestine. Healthy Villi allow nutrients from food to be absorbed through the walls of the small intestine into the bloodstream. Without healthy villi, a person becomes malnourished, no matter how much food is consumed.

Celiac disease affects 1 in 133 healthy Americans of all ages, races and genders. However, people with preexisting autoimmune disorders such as Thyroid disease, Type 1 diabetes and Turners Syndrome are more likely to develop the condition.

Diagnosing the condition is typically done through blood work; however other tests may be necessary. Consult with your physician.


Gluten Intolerance and Sensitivity

Unlike Celiac disease, gluten sensitivity is not an autoimmune disorder and does not cause damage to the small intestine. Gluten sensitivity can cause a variety of symptoms similar to celiac disease including gastrointestinal discomfort. Further research is needed in this area. Treatment for gluten sensitivity is the same as celiac disease – a gluten-free diet.


Symptoms and Treatment

The disease is difficult to diagnose as it mimics other intestinal disorders like Irritable Bowel Syndrome, chronic fatigue and iron deficiency Anemia. Symptoms vary from person to person and include chronic gastrointestinal distress such as diarrhea or constipation, abdominal pain, bloating, weakness, arthritis, depression, headaches and unexplained weight loss.

Some individuals may not have any symptoms at all and can be asymptomatic.

Treatment: The only treatment for celiac disease is to follow a gluten-free diet. A diet free of Rye, Barley, and all forms of wheat (durum, graham, kamut, semolina, spelt).

A daily multivitamin that meets 100% of the Daily Value will help you meet your needs for a variety of essential nutrients while on a gluten-free diet. Check label to ensure gluten-free ingredients.

Testing: Individuals who suspect they may have celiac disease must not remove gluten from their diet prior to testing.  A person must be consuming gluten for the blood test to detect antibodies that indicate celiac disease.