Understanding gluten intolerance

Geneviève Nadeau May, 2013
Understanding gluten intolerance

Celiac disease (also called gluten intolerance or allergy) is characterized by a reaction of the defense system of the human body to the ingestion of gluten. This is why it is defined as an “auto-immune” disease. Even in very small quantities in the body of a person with celiac disease, gluten causes gastrointestinal inflammation as well as the destruction of intestinal cells. Since these cells are normally used to absorb nutrients from food, their destruction effectively reduces food absorption. The result is a lack of iron, calcium and folic acid very common in children with this disease. Even adults sometimes exhibit weight loss and nutritional deficiencies before they receive a diagnosis of gluten intolerance. Celiac disease is a very serious health issue since there is no specific treatment to curb gluten intolerance unless, of course, completely eliminating gluten from your diet.
Where does one find gluten?
Gluten is a protein found naturally in wheat, rye, barley, triticale, spelled and kamut. It is often said that oats contain gluten, but in reality it is rather because it is frequently contaminated with wheat gluten, especially during the manufacturing processes. Therefore, pure or uncontaminated oats can perhaps be consumed, in small quantities, by people with celiac disease that benefit from a stable condition. See your doctor or pediatrician if in doubt.
To remove gluten from your diet, all foods prepared from cereals mentioned above should be eliminated and replaced by substitutes to meet carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals needs in the body. Indeed, bread, breakfast cereals, pasta, pastries, sauces and other processed products may contain traces of gluten and must be set aside. Foods labeled “gluten-free” are more and more reliable as processed foods producers must now comply with recent labeling requirements.
It is possible to have a balanced diet, which is varied and tasty in the absence of gluten. For example, brown rice, quinoa, buckwheat and corn are excellent sources of vitamin B, fiber and minerals all the while being gluten free.

How does one diagnosed celiac disease?
The symptoms of celiac disease are often confused with other digestive problems such as irritable bowel syndrome. It would be best to see your doctor to confirm the presence of gluten intolerance. Celiac disease can be diagnosed trough a blood test or an intestinal biopsy. As strange as it may seem, make sure not eliminate gluten before an accurate diagnosis because the absence of gluten could distort the test results. However, some people prefer not to wait for medical examinations to verify the actual presence of celiac disease. If you decide to eliminate gluten from your diet or that of your child consult a dietitian or nutritionist to help guide you through this important change in your eating habits.
References:
1)    Fondation québécoise de la maladie coeliaquewww.fqmc.org
2)    Santé Canada, www.sc-hc.gc.ca Maladie Coeliaque
3)    Association canadienne de la maladie coeliaque www.celiac.ca
4)    Thompson T. Oats and the gluten-free diet. J Am Diet Assoc 2003;103:376-9.

Categories : Allergies

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