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Helping to understand gluten free

Posted October 16, 2013 in Advice Column

It is estimated that 83 percent of Americans who have celiac disease are undiagnosed or misdiagnosed with other conditions. An estimated one in 133 Americans or about 1 percent of the population has celiac disease.

Here is the best news I can give you. If you are celiac, you have the only autoimmune disorder where the symptoms can be controlled 100 percent by what you eat. No drugs, no muss, a bit of fuss in the food prep. And while some days are more challenging than others, now you approach each day as it’s equally important. While it can be easy to drop in the “Woe is me, I’m so deprived” thinking, it is more fun for you to help spread the word if you look at each new interaction as a way to help educate others.

Let’s start with the basics. Gluten is a protein found in wheat, rye and barley. When your body produces an autoimmune response to gluten, you develop inflammation in your small intestines; this is called celiac disease. While there is no cure for celiac disease, there is an effective treatment — following a gluten-free diet. Overwhelming at first? Yes. Doable? Definitely.

Going gluten free can feel difficult, especially at first, but it doesn’t have to be that way. If you were diagnosed with celiac disease, gluten intolerance or gluten sensitivity, chances are you’ll learn to look for the obvious sources of gluten: breads and cereals. But gluten also lurks in some hard-to-find places. If you are going gluten free, you’re going to need to become acquainted with food labels. Although gluten is found in wheat, barley and rye, you also need to look out for any other derivatives.

Symptoms of celiac are all over the board, ranging from diarrhea, constipation and bloating to rashes, headaches, joint pain and heartburn. If you’ve experienced any lingering aliments for more than two weeks, you may want to schedule an appointment with your physician. Before your appointment, eat a normal diet. If you cut out gluten before your blood test, your doctor won’t be able to diagnose you with celiac disease. Keep a food log. Track your symptoms. Write down any current stressors or life events.

Following a gluten-free diet may seem daunting at first, but with a little creativity anyone can make delicious gluten-free meals.

Information provided by Jaime Roelfs, Marketing Director, Crestview Nursing and Rehabilitation Center, 2401 Des Moines St., Webster City, 515-832-2727.

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