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10 Important Facts about Celiac Disease and a Gluten-Free Diet

Posted Dec 01 2009 12:00am
1. Do not start a gluten-free diet until you have been tested for celiac disease (celiac panel blood test and endoscopy if necessary). Testing will not be accurate if you are already eating gluten-free. An endoscopy is necessary to confirm a diagnosis of celiac disease and sometimes to help interpret the results of the celiac panel blood test, which is not always accurate.

2. Many people who test negative for celiac disease are gluten sensitive and find that symptoms improve on a gluten-free diet.

3. Celiac disease is an autoimmune disease, not an allergy. It is not part of food allergy testing. Eating gluten damages the villi of the small intestine, preventing nutrients from being properly absorbed. If left untreated, celiac can lead to osteoporosis and cancer, among other things.

4. The only treatment for celiac disease is a 100% gluten-free diet.

5. Symptoms of celiac disease vary greatly and some people have no symptoms or only mild symptoms, like migraines or fatigue. Symptoms are commonly misdiagnosed as other conditions and there is a lot of misinformation about celiac disease. In fact, 97% of people with celiac disease don’t know they have it, and it can take years and many doctors for people to be correctly diagnosed.

6. Celiac disease is genetic. If one family member has it, others should be tested.

7. Gene testing for celiac disease does not tell you if you have celiac disease. If you do not have any of the genes associated with celiac disease, then you can rule out celiac disease. If you do have some of genes, all it means is that you may develop celiac, but many people with the genes never develop it.

8. While there are countless great gluten-free foods and many restaurants have gluten-free menus, cross-contamination is the biggest challenge for most people with celiac disease. Gluten crumbs in a condiment jar, a cooking utensil or serving spoon that has been used on gluten, and even airborne wheat flour, can all cause a person with celiac disease to have a severe reaction, which can last for days.

9. Eating gluten-free is not a weight loss diet. Many gluten-free breads and other baked goods are not only expensive, but high in fat and calories. Many people with celiac disease gain weight on a gluten-free diet as the body heals and begins properly absorbing nutrients. Eating foods that are naturally gluten-free is cheaper and healthier than processed gluten-free foods.

10. While wheat is a top eight allergen required to be listed on food labels in the United States, gluten is not. Gluten (wheat, rye, barley, and contaminated oats) is found in many products and some products are unsafe for people with celiac disease as a result of cross-contamination. Only oats that are certified gluten-free may be consumed on a gluten-free diet and some people with celiac disease are unable to even tolerate oats that are certified gluten-free.

For more information about celiac disease
Celiac disease: Have you been tested?

Celiac disease videos, articles, and resources to share

Celiac disease statistics, video, and a gluten-free care package

Gluten-free 101: How can I better understand food labeling?

Don’t miss the numerous useful links on my sidebar in two sections: Newly Diagnosed Resources and Celiac Links.
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