Tuesday, October 4, 2011

October is Celiac Disease Awareness Month

By Diane Forrest, RN

How many of you have walked down the aisle of your grocery store and seen packages that are marked Gluten Free? Raise your hands if you don't know what they are talking about. ( raising my hand)  I have heard of being a glutton for punishment, but had no clue to what gluten was.  So....I looked it up.  Gluten is  a protein composite found in foods processed from wheat and related species, including barley and rye. It gives elasticity to dough, helping it to rise and to keep its shape, and often giving the final product a chewy texture.  Why am I talking about this?  Well because October is Celiac Disease awareness month, and Celiac disease is a condition that damages the lining of the small intestine and prevents it from absorbing parts of food that are important for staying healthy. The damage is due to a reaction to eating gluten, which is found in wheat, barley, rye, and possibly oats.

The exact cause of celiac disease is unknown. The lining of the intestines contains areas called villi, which help absorb nutrients. When people with celiac disease eat foods or use products that contain gluten, their immune system reacts by damaging these villi.

This damage affects the ability to absorb nutrients properly. A person becomes malnourished, no matter how much food he or she eats.

The disease can develop at any point in life, from infancy to late adulthood. People who have a family member with celiac disease are at greater risk for developing the disease. The disorder is most common in Caucasians and persons of European ancestry. Women are affected more often than men.

Some symptoms of Celiac disease include:
  • Abdominal pain, bloating
  • Constipation
  • decreased appetite
  • Diarrhea
  • foul smelling stools, that float
  • unexplained weigh loss

Children with celiac disease may have:
  • Defects in the tooth enamel and changes in tooth color
  • Delayed puberty
  • Diarrhea, constipation, fatty or foul-smelling stools, nausea, or vomiting
  • Irritable and fussy behavior
  • Poor weight gain
  • Slowed growth and shorter than normal height for their age

Celiac disease is diagnosed through blood tests.  Celiac disease cannot be cured. However, your symptoms will go away and the villi in the lining of the intestines will heal if you follow a lifelong gluten-free diet. Do not eat foods, beverages, and medications that contain wheat, barley, rye, and possibly oats.

You must read food and medication labels carefully to look for hidden sources of these grains and ingredients related to them. Because wheat and barley grains are common in the American diet, sticking with this diet is challenging. With education and planning, you will heal.

For more information go to this site:  http://www.celiaccentral.org/

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