Chances are you have probably heard of or seen gluten-free foods on the news or at a local grocery store or restaurant. Although likely genetic, it seems that more individuals are opting for gluten-free food options because they are alerted to a risk of having celiac disease.
Celiac disease (also called celiac sprue) is a dietary condition that is caused by a sensitivity to gluten, which is found in most grain foods. Celiac disease is best understood as an autoimmune disorder that attacks the digestive system and can severely damage the small intestine if not dealt with properly.
Celiac disease occurs when gluten protein enters the body and triggers the villi, the tiny finger-like linings inside your small intestines, to not be able to absorb the proper nutrients from the food. The result is often various forms of malnutrition because the body can’t absorb the essential nutrients it needs, regardless of how food is consumed.
Over time, it can cause long-term health problems such as anemia, osteoporosis, vitamin deficiencies and even intestinal cancer.
Although celiac disease cannot be cured, it can be treated and managed by removing gluten from your diet.
If you think you may have celiac disease, it’s bet to talk to your doctor first before adopting a gluten-free diet, says Stephanie Dean, a clinical dietitian on staff at Baylor University Medical Center at Dallas to BaylorHealth Magazine. Here’s why:
YOU’LL GET A FALSE NEGATIVE TEST
Once you eliminate gluten from your diet, the autoimmune response subsides and won’t show up on a test.
YOU AREN’T STRICT ENOUGH
“If you have even an eighth of a teaspoon of a piece of bread, that’s enough gluten to trigger an autoimmune response,” Dean says. Once you have a formal diagnosis, you and your doctor can come up with a plan to clear your diet of gluten entirely.
THERE ARE BETTER DIET OPTIONS
If you’re trying to lose weight tor manage other digestive issues, a clinical dietitian can help you create a reduced-carbohydrate or other personalized eating plan that’s more flexible.
Think you might have celiac disease? Reach out to your primary care doctor for testing and to learn more about your personalized approach to living with and managing celiac disease.
Information in this blog post originally appeared in the May 2013 edition of BaylorHealth Magazine.