What is Celiac Disease?
Celiac disease affects about 1 in 141 people, or about 3 million Americans.
When a person with celiac disease eats gluten – a protein matrix present in wheat, rye and barley – their bodies react, causing damage to the lining of the small intestine and preventing the uptake of nutrients. This damage causes unintended substances to enter the bloodstream, which also causes physical reactions and digestive problems.
While less than 1 percent of the population is currently affected, celiac disease is four times more common than 60 years ago. The only current solution for people with celiac disease is to follow a gluten-free diet for the rest of their lives.
For more information on celiac disease, visit the National Institute of Heath at http://www.celiac.nih.gov/.
What Causes Celiac Symptoms?
Antibodies are the defenders of the human body. Developed over time, each has a specific target it is trained to identify, attack and remove. For people with celiac disease, a portion of their antibodies have identified gluten as something that may cause harm to the body. When these people consume gluten, its antibodies defend, which causes damage to the small intestine.
Specifically, celiac disease affects the carpet of small, finger-like projections that help the body absorb vital nutrients, called villi. As a result, the small intestine can no longer absorb essential nutrients, no matter the person’s diet, causing a variety of defects including iron deficiency, indigestion, nausea, abdominal pain, lactose intolerance and weight loss.
Not Gluten Free, But Celiac Safe
Kansas wheat farmers are the only group supporting research into the identifying the exact DNA that causes a celiac reaction as well as the levels of reactivity in wheat varieties. The results, however, would be life-changing for the three million Americans with celiac disease. [Read more]
What About Gluten-Free?
Celebrities, athletes, talk show hosts and nearly 30 percent of people say they are turning to gluten-free diets to solve health issues from “foggy mind” to bloating and obesity. But before you throw out the flour or start embracing all things non-wheat, barley and rye, it’s important to consider that nutrition experts do not advocate a gluten-free diet for most people. For the vast majority of us, going gluten-free can be expensive, less nutritious and just plain unnecessary. The bottom line: gluten is a complex plant protein found in some of our favorite foods, and most of us have been tolerating it for thousands of years.
Reprinted from Truth About Gluten, a publication of the Wheat Foods Council.