It might seem like the gluten-free trend is everywhere you look. Grocery stores have begun devoting more shelf space to gluten-free products, restaurants advertise it and even devote specific space to gluten-free items on their menus. While to many this may seem like the next food trend that will come and go, to millions of people worldwide, this new attention to this seemingly harmless ingredient might just be saving their health.
This May, celebrate Celiac Awareness Month with Carolina Digestive Health Associates and learn about the health condition that necessitates this specific diet and how these new eating trends can improve the lives of many.
Celiac disease is an autoimmune condition that affects the health of your lower intestine. The lower intestine is lined with tiny, finger-like pieces called villi. The villi are what aid in nutrient absorption from your food, extracting what is necessary for your body before passing through the rest of your gastrointestinal tract. In people with celiac disease, these villi are damaged by contact with gluten, meaning the body isn’t able to absorb the nutrients it needs.
When it comes to gluten-free foods, many people assume that avoiding bread is all you need to worry about. Anyone who has had to follow a strict gluten-free diet knows that there’s much more to it than that. Gluten is a grain found in many foods, obvious ones being bread and pasta, and less obvious sources being in sauces, soups, and even many processed meats. Even eating small amounts of gluten can be damaging to someone with celiac disease. Anyone who has celiac should become familiar with reading labels, asking questions, and making sure to pack their diets with naturally gluten-free foods.
Doctors don’t know the exact cause of this autoimmune disorder, but do know it can be triggered, or even become evident, following pregnancy and childbirth, certain infections, stress, or other major medical events.
Celiac does not present exactly the same in all patients. Some people may have it and not even know, a condition called silent celiac. Classical celiac presents with signs of malabsorption, which can include diarrhea, weight loss, or failure to thrive in children. Patients presenting with non-classical celiac disease might have mild gastrointestinal symptoms or even symptoms that seem unrelated like tingling in the hands and feet, unexplained infertility, depression and anxiety, or chronic fatigue. Celiac will show up on lab blood tests. It is also known to be genetic, so if you have a family history of the disease, you should prioritize a visit to the doctor.
As is the case with many people who suffer debilitating conditions like celiac, a search for a cure is always a priority. Since celiac disease is chronic, you can’t outgrow the condition. With proper diet and lifestyle management, however, it is possible to reverse some of the damage to your small intestines and keep the uncomfortable symptoms and bay. The most important thing to do if you have celiac is to get regular exams and stick with a gluten-free diet.
If you are concerned you might have celiac or have experienced a change in bowel movements or digestive discomfort for a few weeks, make an appointment today to visit Carolina Digestive Health Associates.