A gluten-free diet is a diet that excludes the protein gluten. Gluten is found in grains such as wheat, barley and rye and oats .
A gluten-free diet is used to treat gluten intolerance and celiac disease. Gluten causes inflammation in the small intestines of people with celiac disease. Eating a gluten-free diet helps people with celiac disease control their signs and symptoms and prevent complications.
Initially, following a gluten-free diet may be frustrating. But with time, patience and creativity, you'll find there are many foods that you can eat and enjoy while observing a gluten-free diet.
Celiac disease, also known as gluten intolerance, is a genetic disorder that affects at least 1 in 133 Americans. Symptoms of celiac disease can range from the classic features, such as diarrhea, weight loss, and malnutrition, to latent symptoms such as isolated nutrient deficiencies but no gastrointestinal symptoms. The disease mostly affects people of European (especially Northern European) descent, but recent studies show that it also affects Hispanic, Black and Asian populations as well. Those affected suffer damage to the villi (shortening and villous flattening) in the lamina propria and crypt regions of their intestines when they eat specific food-grain antigens (toxic amino acid sequences) that are found in wheat, rye, and barley. Oats have traditionally been considered to be toxic to celiacs, but recent scientific studies have shown otherwise. This research is ongoing, however, and it may be too early to draw solid conclusions.
Because of the broad range of symptoms celiac disease presents, it can be difficult to diagnose. The symptoms can range from mild weakness, bone pain, and aphthous stomatitis to chronic diarrhea, abdominal bloating, and progressive weight loss. If a person with the disorder continues to eat gluten, studies have shown that he or she will increase their chances of gastrointestinal cancer by a factor of 40 to 100 times that of the normal population. Further, gastrointestinal carcinoma or lymphoma develops in up to 15 percent of patients with untreated or refractory celiac disease. It is therefore imperative that the disease is quickly and properly diagnosed so it can be treated as soon as possible.
In order to avoid eating gluten, avoid food and drinks containing:
Avoid unless labeled 'gluten free'
Certain grains, such as oats, can be contaminated with wheat during growing and processing stages of production. It's not clear whether oats are harmful for most people with celiac disease, but doctors generally recommend avoiding oats unless they are specifically labeled gluten free. The question of whether people eating a gluten-free diet can consume pure oat products remains a subject of scientific debate.
Many other products that you eat or that could come in contact with your mouth may contain gluten. These include:
Cross-contamination also may occur anywhere ingredients come together, such as on a cutting board or a grill surface. You may be exposed to gluten by using the same utensils as others, such as a bread knife, or by sharing the same condiment containers — the condiment bottle may touch the bun, or a knife with bread crumbs may contaminate a margarine stick or mayonnaise jar.
Grains and starches allowed in a gluten-free diet include:
Check the label when buying amaranth, buckwheat and quinoa. These can be contaminated with gluten during processing.
Other gluten-free foods include:
An increasing number of gluten-free products, such as bread and pasta, are becoming available. If you can't find them in your area, check with a celiac support group or on the Web. Gluten-free substitutes are available for many gluten-containing foods, from brownies to beer. Many specialty grocery stores sell gluten-free foods.
People with celiac disease who eat a gluten-free diet experience fewer symptoms and complications of the disease. People with celiac disease must eat a strictly gluten-free diet and must remain on the diet for the remainder of their lives.
In some severe cases, a gluten-free diet alone can't stop signs and symptoms of celiac disease. In these cases, doctors might prescribe medications to suppress the immune system.
Not eating enough vitamins
Not sticking to the gluten-free diet
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