Celiac disease “is a hereditary, autoimmune disease caused by intolerance to the food protein, gluten—which is found in wheat, barley and rye. When people with celiac disease eat gluten-containing foods, the lining of the small intestine is damaged…preventing nutrients from being absorbed adequately.”1 Symptoms of celiac disease include “gastrointestinal distress, chronic fatigue, osteoporosis, anemia, nutritional deficiencies, and reproductive health issues.” 2
If you suspect that you might have celiac disease, you should contact your doctor to get tested. It is important to follow a normal (gluten-containing) diet prior to being tested. If you are diagnosed with celiac disease or a related condition called non-celiac gluten sensitivity, you will be required to follow a lifelong gluten-free diet.2
The good news is that many foods that are naturally good for you are also naturally gluten-free. These include fresh fruits and vegetables, fresh meat, poultry, fish, and nuts. Also, many whole grain products, such as buckwheat, popcorn, brown rice, and quinoa are gluten-free.3 However, gluten can be found in many other foods (either naturally or as an additive), medications, and cosmetics.
Because even the smallest amount of gluten can make you sick, it is necessary to check ingredient lists and sometimes to contact the manufacturer to make sure an item is gluten-free. It’s also important to make sure that gluten-free foods are not contaminated with gluten during preparation. Work with your doctor, a registered dietitian, and local support group to find out what you need to know about going gluten-free.
For more information on living gluten-free, visit:
Celiac Disease Foundation: http://www.celiac.org/
Celiac Sprue Association: http://www.csaceliacs.info/index.jsp
National Foundation for Celiac Awareness: http://www.celiaccentral.org/
The Gluten Intolerance Group: http://www.gluten.net/