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Simply Said: “wheat-free”/celiac disease

The past five years have produced an increase in wheat-free products such as breads, pastas, crackers, and cookies.

Although the claim “wheat-free” also accompanies other health-related ones such as “Low in saturated fat!” or “No added sugar!”, you should only be concerned with avoiding wheat if you have been diagnosed with an allergy to it or a genetic disease known as celiac disease.

Celiacs can not tolerate gluten, a protein mainly found in wheat as well as barley and rye.

When gluten is consumed — even if it’s as little as 1/8 of a teaspoon — the small intestine is damaged, and symptoms vary from extremely uncomfortable bloating and diarrhea to fatigue, mouth sores, and muscle cramps.

Although approximately ten percent of celiacs don’t appear to show any symptoms, they are not immune from the nutrient malabsorption that occurs as a result of damage in the small intestine.

Avoiding wheat, rye, and barley is not as easy as it sounds.

Many medicines have traces of gluten, and cross-contamination can often happen in factories (which is why you will often see food labels for products that don’t contain either of those three ingredients warning consumers that the respective food was made in a factory that processes wheat).

Once diagnosed (after a simple blood test), the lifestyle change can be hard, especially when dining out.

A fish and vegetable stew might sound harmless, but that tomato sauce on top might have a little flour in it to thicken it. Frozen yogurts often use gluten as a stabilizing agent!

Remember, even the slightest trace of gluten is enough to set off some very uncomfortable symptoms.

Luckily, celiacs have more options than ever. Although all sorts of wheat flour (all-purpose, whole wheat, durum, farina, etc.) should be avoided, experimenting with other types (ie: chickpea, tapioca, rice) is recommended.

Celiacs often end up introducing their palate to a variety of flavors — quinoa, amaranth, and flax often become a regular addition to their diet, rather than the “funky grain” they have once a month.

Unfortunately, the only “cure” to celiac disease is complete avoidance of foods that damage the small intestine.

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4 Comments

  1. The Patient Connection said on May 21st, 2007

    Coeliac Disease – Its Diagnosis and Treatment – Tell us your story in a New Research Blog

    We would like to take this opportunity to invite you a research blog on Coeliac
    We are particularly interested in the story of your diagnosis and treatment.

    To take part please click this link

    http://www.thepatientconnections.com/blog.asp?uid=46

    Please feel free to post any links to useful resources for other Coeliac sufferers.

    The blog is anonymous and easy to use. Instructions are given on the blog so thanks in advance for your help it is much appreciated.

    Best wishes

    Belinda
    The Patient Connection
    Belinda.shale@thepatientconnections.com

    PS Please email me if you have any queries about the blog or any of our projects.

  2. Anonymous said on October 15th, 2007

    People can have an allergy to wheat and need to avoid all wheat products. CD isn’t the only reason to avoid wheat.

  3. Andy Bellatti said on October 15th, 2007

    Yes, good point. I can see how my wording can be unclear. I’ll edit. Thanks.

  4. Andy Bellatti said on October 15th, 2007

    Yes, good point. I can see how my wording can be unclear. I’ll edit. Thanks.

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