Living a Healthy Life With Celiac Disease
Celiac disease can be a life-threatening disease and sometimes hard to diagnose or is misdiagnosed. But with proper diet you can actually heal the damage to your intestines from celiac disease and live a healthy life.
What is Celiac Disease?
Celiac disease is a disease of the digestive system that damages the small intestines and interferes with the body’s ability to absorb nutrition from food. This causes malnutrition among numerous other symptoms and problems. Celiac disease is usually genetic and affects 2 million Americans. It can affect as many as 1 in 22 Americans among people with a parent, sibling or child who has celiac disease. It is caused by the body’s abnormal reaction to anything containing gluten. When someone with celiac disease eats foods that contain gluten, their immune systems responds by damaging or destroying the villi of the small intestine. The villi are what allow the nutrients from food to be absorbed into the blood. Sometimes celiac disease is misdiagnosed because it resembles numerous other medical problems including irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), ulcers, Crohns disease and even a parasitic infection.
Symptoms of celiac disease include:
- Chronic fatigue syndrome
- Intermittent diarrhea
- Abdominal pain
- Bone and joint pain
- Iron-deficiency anemia that cannot be explained
- Tingling and numbness in the hands and feet
- An itchy skin rash which is called dermatitis herpetiformis
One of the problems with celiac disease is that symptoms can go on for years before the person is properly diagnosed. Or it can go on for years because some people don’t get the above gastric symptoms. And the longer it goes on the more damage it does to the intestines and also the rest of the body due to the malnutrition because the body is not absorbing nutrients properly from food.
There is now more awareness about celiac disease and better tests are available. One of the ways a doctor can test for the disease is with a blood test. Testing the blood for higher than normal levels of what is called autoantibodies. Autoantibodies are proteins that react against the body’s own cells and tissues. There are other tests that can be done with the small intestine.
Treating Celiac Disease With Diet
I have talked to several people who have celiac disease and they are always very depressed and about to give up with their health and think they can never heal and get better. With further discussions with every person I found that they actually never would stick to the proper diet. They would for a while and then start eating the wrong foods again. In order to live a healthy life and heal your intestines and body, you have to strictly follow the proper diet the rest of your life. The most important part of your new diet is to avoid anything containing gluten, and that is hard to do. Behind sugar, gluten is the second most prevalent food in the western diet. Being strict with your new diet will heal the small intestines but even the smallest amount of gluten will cause the intestinal damage to start again.
Even people who follow a strict no-gluten diet will sometimes feel bad again; this is usually because they had something that contained gluten. You have to pay close attention for the hidden gluten as well as the obvious. It also seems more people are becoming gluten intolerant or allergic to gluten. Thankfully the US government in 2006 passed a food labeling law that requires all food labels to identify wheat and other commonly known allergens. The government is finalizing The Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act (FALCPA) and will set the rules for products with the label “gluten-free” on the package. Even with vitamins and supplements you have to be careful, you can now read on their labels if they are gluten-free.
Here is a list of safe gluten-free foods you can eat.
|indian rice grass||Rice||All green and yellow vegetables|
|Job's tears||Sago||All fruits|
|Legumes, peas. lentils||Seeds||** Oats|
** Oats have been demonstrated to be free of toxic proteins and tolerated by most but not all people with celiac disease. There is still the concern that commercial oat products are contaminated with wheat. If you follow a strict diet and still feel bad, it could be something containing oats.
Learn everything you can about cooking, diet and foods and what they contain. There are many new gluten-free recipe books out now that you can learn from. Going out to eat will be something you will learn about as will eating processed foods, you always have to be aware of the hidden gluten. There might be lists of places to eat in your area that feature gluten-free dishes. This is a comprehensive list of safe gluten-free foods and here is a list of unsafe gluten-free foods. You can have a very healthy, tasty and rounded diet eating a strict gluten-free diet.
Gluten Free Spaghetti Dinner
If you miss having a nice pasta dinner because of celiac disease, there are new gluten free pastas on the market. Ancient Harvest has pasta that is made from quinoa and corn that is gluten free and organic.
Don’t look at your new diet with despair, embrace it as your new hobby and a way to heal your intestines and possibly cure your celiac disease as long as you eat a proper diet. By staying with this new way of eating, you can heal your intestines and rid yourself of the terrible feelings and damage that celiac disease can cause and start living a healthy life.
© 2009 Sam Montana
Digestive Tune-Up by Dr. John McDougall, MD