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Celiac Disease

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Celiac disease is a disorder that damages the lining of the intestines as a reaction to gluten, a protein found in wheat, rye, barley and oats. Consequently, those who suffer from this must go on a gluten-free diet, which can be quite the challenge.

Gluten, obviously in all grains, is also found in foods and drugs under the guise of "food starch". This includes "hydrolyzed vegetable protein" and "natural flavor". You can find it in goods as disparate as salad dressing and canned soups, mouthwash and even Play-Doh.

Afflicted Americans

Celiac disease affects one in 200 Americans, making it the most common inherited genetic illness in the country. Yet, most sufferers are not even aware they are gluten intolerant. The University of Chicago estimates there are a million undiagnosed celiac sufferers in the United States alone.

Making matters worse for celiac sufferers is the fact that this disease is difficult for doctors to diagnose. Experts say no two cases are alike. Patients must undergo numerous tests before celiac disease is properly diagnosed. Getting an accurate diagnosis of celiac disease is like doing detective work!

Symptoms of Celiac Disease

Symptoms take the form of digestive problems such as diarrhea, constipation, nausea, vomiting, anorexia, gas, bloating, cramps or lactose intolerance. In relation to these symptoms there can also be failure to grow (particularly in children), weakness, fatigue, infertility, anemia, osteoporosis or skin conditions.

Celiac disease damages the villi, small hair-like projections that line the small intestine and allow the body to absorb nutrients from digested food. In the celiac disease sufferer, these projections shorten and eventually flatten and the intestine then cannot function properly. Vital nutrients (vitamins, minerals, proteins, fats and carbohydrates) are not absorbed.

It is now believed a person who is predisposed to the disease has an event such as an infection, stress, over-indulgence in gluten etc., that triggers or irritates the onset of the illness.

The Gluten Free Symbol Once diagnosed with celiac disease, one must cut gluten out of their diet and the body will heal entirely. Depending on the amount of damage, this takes approximately six months. If left untreated, one can develop osteoporosis, nerve damage or, in children, symptoms of autism. In addition, it can increase the risk of lymphoma and digestive system cancers.

Once a person is told to make the change to a gluten free diet, the initial reaction is desperation. The difficulty of knowing what contains gluten and just what they can (or cannot) eat is daunting. Fortunately, demand is now being met for celiac sufferers and many products are available to allow them to eat - and enjoy doing so once again.

Flour alone is available in 18 different varieties one can use. Those include arrowroot, garbanzo bean flour, Romano bean flour, cornstarch, cornmeal, and potato starch and tapioca flour, to name a few. Cooks can customize their flour mixes depending on what they are cooking. Many of the gluten free flours have strong flavors and one uses them in combination with one another. Alternatively, one can use a pre-packaged gluten-free mix, which pre-blends the flours.


The most commonly used flours are the bean flours. Bean flours contain nearly as much protein as wheat flour. The addition of Xanthan Gum or Gluten-Free Guar Gum gives the dough elasticity and prevents the finished product from being too crumbly.


Desserts are always the most difficult struggle for celiac sufferers. Most desserts depend heavily on flour. With some practice and sound knowledge of what products to use, there is no reason a celiac sufferer cannot have their dessert. Of course, this is where shopping for gluten-free products comes into play. This is a task a celiac needs to master.

Food Staples

Staples, such as fruit, vegetables, meats and dairy products can all be purchased at your supermarket as usual. The ingredients in other products must be scrutinized closely. Gluten is everywhere. Even the U.S. made Heinz 57 ketchup contains gluten. The Gluten Free Trading Company sells Heinz 57 shipped from England because it is gluten free.

The bad news for gluten-free shopping in nationwide grocery chains is price. The cost for the special need of gluten-free products can be three times the cost, ounce for ounce, of the "regular" products.

Dining Out

Dining out and/or social gatherings are also a challenge for celiac sufferers. The rule most people use is, the simpler, the better: broiled meat without gravy, sauce or spice or a baked potato and a salad without dressing or croutons. Many celiac sufferers find eating a salad when dining out, even after picking off the croutons, still makes them sick due to the dressing.

Celiac sufferers soon learn and accept the fact that the best route to take is to make your foods from scratch. Doing so really is not all that difficult once you get a system down, and the effort is well worth the relief of symptoms. The convenience of fast food is no longer an option for celiac sufferers. This may take some getting used to in today's society but it can be done; it just takes some time and experience. All the effort put forth will be well worth it because you will feel so much better as a result.

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