Celiac Awareness Month: Tips For Celiac Disease
Celiac disease is a condition resulting from the body’s immune intolerance of gluten, a protein found in wheat, rye, and barley. Following ingestion of gluten, the body’s immune system mounts an attack against the protein causing injury to the intestinal lining. The normal intestinal projections called villi become blunted and are unable to properly absorb nutrients. Patients with celiac disease can manifest with a range of gastrointestinal symptoms, including diarrhea, constipation, gas-bloat, and unintentional weight loss. Some patients have no gastrointestinal symptoms and can present with other manifestations such as iron deficiency anemia, early onset osteoporosis, and liver test abnormalities. A diagnosis of celiac disease is based on abnormal antibody levels in the blood, evidence of injury on small intestinal biopsies, and a response to a gluten free diet.
In light of Celiac Awareness Month, here are some helpful tips to integrate into your daily routine for those who suffer from celiac disease:
A gluten free diet is the treatment for celiac disease
Patients with established celiac disease must eliminate gluten from their diet to control symptoms and reverse damage to the intestinal lining. Patients should focus on eating naturally gluten free foods (meats, fruits, vegetables, rice, potatoes) and consuming gluten free grains such as amaranth, quinoa, buckwheat, and millet. Oats are also gluten free but can sometimes be contaminated with gluten, so they should be consumed with caution. It is helpful to work with an experienced dietitian to help guide you in following a gluten free diet.
Beware of cross-contamination
Certain appliances, as well as crumbs from bread made with gluten can find their way into a tub of butter, and even into a jar of jam, when someone dips a knife into the container. Even minuscule amounts have the potential to negatively affect someone who suffers from celiac disease. In order to help prevent this, buy your own toaster or toaster oven, and use a clean utensil every time a product gets spooned out. You can also separate your food from others in order to prevent any chance of gluten cross-contamination.
Monitoring after the diagnosis is made
If you have celiac disease, it is important to follow up with your gastroenterologist to ensure that you are responding to the gluten free diet. Repeat antibody levels should be checked 2-3 months into treatment; they should trend toward normal if you are properly following the diet. You should also be screened for other autoimmune conditions such as hypothyroidism, and for vitamin and mineral deficiencies. In particular, levels of iron, folate, vitamin B12, and vitamin D should be checked. A bone density test should also be obtained after being on a gluten free diet for a year to assess your levels.
Stay with the times
Take advantage of the applications that are available for tablets and smartphones. There are many gluten-free applications that can help you find gluten-free restaurants in your area. There are even smartphone applications that can inform you about available food options and help you find verified gluten-free products. In addition, the internet holds a wealth of knowledge, but be cautious where you get your information. Be sure to visit reliable sites such as the ones listed below:
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