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Life and Religion

Glutton for gluten? OK
Debate rages over what going without does for health
 
Published Thursday, September 27, 2012 9:48 am
by Michaela L. Duckett

 

Millions of people have adopted a gluten-free diet.

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Millions of Americans eat gluten-free food, but the U.S. Food and Drug Administration contends there is no nutritional advantage unless a person has celiac disease, which is a lack of gluten tolerance. Gluten is a protein found mainly in breads, cakes, cereals and pastas.


However, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration contends there is no nutritional advantage to such a lifestyle unless a person has celiac disease.


People with celiac disease cannot tolerate gluten – a protein found mainly in breads, cakes, cereals, pastas and many other foods made with wheat, rye or barley. Gluten may also be found in everyday products such as medicines, vitamins, and lip balms.


When people with celiac disease eat foods or use products containing gluten, it triggers an allergic reaction causing their body’s natural defense system to attack the lining of the small intestine.


Without a healthy intestinal lining, the body cannot absorb the nutrients it needs.


According to Mayo Clinic researchers, most of the more than 2 million Americans living with celiac disease are unaware they have the condition.


“Some people don’t get immediate symptoms,” says Stefano Luccioli M.D., an FDA allergist and immunologist. “But when they do, they are typically gastrointestinal-related, such as abdominal pain, bloating and diarrhea. In infants, there may be a lot of vomiting, and they don’t grow and thrive.”


Luccioli says that some people do not have any symptoms at all but still have intestinal damage and risk for long-term complications.
According to the FDA, celiac disease can cause delayed growth and nutrient deficiencies that may lead to conditions such as anemia and osteoporosis. The agency says other serious health problems may include diabetes, autoimmune diseases and intestinal cancers.


Celiac disease is genetic, meaning it runs in families. Sometimes the disease is triggered—or becomes active for the first time—after surgery, pregnancy, childbirth, viral infection, or severe emotional stress.


According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, recognizing celiac disease can be difficult because some of its symptoms are similar to those of other diseases. Celiac disease can be confused with irritable bowel syndrome, inflammatory bowel disease, intestinal infections, chronic fatigue syndrome and other medical conditions.


As a result, celiac disease has long been under-diagnosed or misdiagnosed. As doctors become more aware of the many varied symptoms of the disease and reliable blood tests become more available, diagnosis rates are increasing.


What are the symptoms of celiac disease?


Symptoms of celiac disease vary from person to person. Symptoms may occur in the digestive system or in other parts of the body.
Digestive symptoms are more common in infants and young children and may include:


• Abdominal bloating and pain


• Chronic diarrhea


• Vomiting


• Constipation


• Pale, foul-smelling, or fatty stool


• Weight loss

Adults are less likely to have digestive symptoms and may instead have one or more of the following, according to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases:


• Unexplained iron-deficiency anemia


• Fatigue


• Bone or joint pain


• Arthritis


• Bone loss or osteoporosis


• Depression or anxiety


• Tingling numbness in the hands and feet


• Seizures


• Missed menstrual periods


• Infertility or recurrent miscarriage


• Canker sores inside the mouth


• Itchy skin rash called dermatitis herpetiformis

Naturally gluten-free
The only treatment for celiac disease is a gluten-free diet. Doctors may ask a newly diagnosed person to work with a dietitian on a gluten-free plan. Some foods are naturally free of gluten. Here are some examples, according to FDA:
• Milk not flavored with ingredients that contain gluten, such as malt


• 100 percent fruit or vegetable juice


• Fresh fruits and vegetables


• Butter


• Eggs


• Lentils


• Peanuts


• Seeds, such as flax


• Tree nuts, such as almonds


• Non-gluten-containing grains, such as corn


• Fresh fish, like cod


• Fresh shellfish, like clams


• Honey


• Water, including bottled, distilled and spring

 

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