September 22, 2021
Celiac Disease and going off gluten
by Mona Jauhar RDN, LD
There is enough conversation around it, yet there’s lots that’s still under probe when it comes to Celiac Disease. The signs and symptoms of the disease vary widely, making the condition difficult to diagnose. Furthermore, several forms of celiac disease have been identified, including classic, atypical, and “silent” or asymptomatic. Also many people avoid gluten without having any idea what it actually is and whether or not it’s really problematic for them.
The prevalence of celiac disease, non-Celiac gluten sensitivity and other gluten intolerances continue to increase and that remains a hot debate in the medical community. Let’s deconstruct them all in this article:
What is Celiac Disease?
Celiac disease is a genetic, autoimmune disorder and is known as the most severe form of gluten intolerance. It can be a chronic, inflammatory condition, in which the body produces an autoimmune reaction in response to exposure to gluten, a protein found in grains like wheat, barley, rye, and spelt. Classic symptoms are generally related to digestion and abnormal absorption of nutrients, while individuals with atypical celiac disease often display few or no gastric symptoms. Classic signs such as digestive issues, are more common in celiac disease developed during childhood, while it is more atypical or asymptomatic in older individuals. Since the symptoms of celiac disease vary so much, the first step for a correct diagnosis generally involves differentiating it from a number of other conditions, such as inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), food intolerances, congenital diarrheal diseases, and intestinal infections.
What causes it?
It is not entirely clear what causes the immune system to act this way, but a combination of genetics and the environment appear to play a part. In order to develop celiac disease, individuals must possess a genetic predisposition to the disorder. Specifically, they must carry the HLA DQ2 and/or DQ8 gene. It has been found that individuals with a parent, sibling, or child with celiac disease are ten times more likely to develop the condition. Furthermore, individuals with other immune conditions, such as autoimmune thyroid disease, type 1 diabetes mellitus, and Down syndrome, have all demonstrated an increased risk of celiac disease.
Not to be confused with NCGS
Please remember that not everybody with a gluten intolerance has Celiac Disease. They could have something called Non-Celiac Gluten Sensitivity (NCGS). While celiac disease and NCGS may present with similar symptoms, NCGS is not caused by an autoimmune reaction. In fact, many more people have NCGS compared to celiac disease. The former, however, can be much more difficult to diagnose because of its overlap in symptoms with many other digestive disorders. Basic diagnosis for NCGS can be made by ruling out Celiac disease and wheat allergies.
Choosing to go gluten free
For those with celiac disease, the body interprets gluten as a toxin. Even for those with gluten insensitivity. So it makes absolute sense for them to make do without gluten in their diets. But do healthy individuals need to go gluten-free as well? Research says that a gluten-free lifestyle can help reduce chronic inflammation, give a welcome boost to your energy levels, and may even help you lose some weight, all in addition to easing up digestive symptoms as well. If you ever consider going the gluten freeway, always do so in consultation with your health practitioner. And do it pragmatically…
Non-restrictive and fun
- Gluten-free alternatives to typical gluten-containing foods are now widely available in most grocery stores. This makes eating a gluten-free diet less of a hassle. But they still might be laced with some gluten-containing products. It would, therefore, be sensible to stick to naturally gluten-free foods like fruits, vegetables, Meats and fish (not battered or processed), eggs, nuts and seeds, dairy and gluten-free grains like amaranth, arrowroot, bean flours (garbanzo, fava, Romano, etc.), buckwheat, buckwheat groats (kasha), corn (maize), cornmeal, flax, flax meal and much more!
Here are some tips on shopping gluten-free:
- Only purchase products with the certified gluten-free label.
- Many personal care products like lip balms and over-the-counter medications and supplements might contain gluten so pick wisely.
- Cross contamination is common in gluten products so go for ones kept in a separate section. Follow the same method at home.
- When buying your supply of beers, choose gluten-free brands that are made from gluten-free grains.
- Restaurant made gluten free food cannot always be trusted. So can’t be readymade salad dressings, marinades and bakery products. Go for homemade or genuine labels only.