Imagine how you would react if you went to your doctor to review some test results and the doctor told you that you could never again eat anything containing wheat, barley, rye spelt, kamut or oats. Realistically, this means no common types of bread, baked goods, crackers or cereal containing these grains. In addition, you would have to avoid gluten in a huge variety of everyday products like sauces, mixes, dressings and beer. Many processed and prepared foods would be off your list too, and even some body care products like hand creams and shampoos.
This is the reality of Celiac Disease.
For those with this life-changing diagnosis even a small amount of gluten is problematic, and this disease currently has no cure. Controlling this condition means a regimented diet and lifelong lifestyle change. According to the Canadian Celiac Association, this is the situation of approximately 1 in 133 people in Canada – and the rate of diagnosis is increasing.
Celiac Disease is a genetically-based auto-immune disorder in which gluten triggers the body’s immune system to attack itself, resulting in damage to the small intestine. Symptoms and their severity vary from person to person according to many factors, including the level of intestinal damage and how many nutrients the body is able to assimilate. A carefully balanced gluten-free diet, including appropriate nutritional supplementation, is recommended by health experts in order to ensure all the body’s requirements are met.
Many people experience digestive distress after consuming gluten, but not all of them suffer from Celiac Disease. Proper testing is necessary for a definitive diagnosis, and the person must be eating gluten regularly for the tests to be accurate. Visit The Canadian Celiac Association on www.celiac.ca for details. If you have concerns, you can discuss them with your doctor.
With the increase in knowledge of Celiac Disease, and the increase in rate of diagnosis, more companies are offering gluten-free products. Consumer demand is resulting in greater variety and availability. A wide assortment of baked goods using rice, corn, quinoa and teff are now available. Gluten-free condiments and prepared foods are also increasing in number. Many mainstream companies are also now testing for gluten in their “regular” products so that they can safely claim gluten-free status. Groceries and supplements labeled “gluten free” contain less than 20ppm (parts per million) of gluten.
May is Celiac Awareness Month. If you or someone you know has the disease, be aware that there is help available. Taking advantage of the existing resources increases knowledge and results in self-empowerment. Learning how to make the appropriate health choices will increase the enjoyment and quality of life. You may be pleasantly surprised at the options available. Though you may think living with Celiac Disease means foregoing all of your favourite foods, there are actually a lot of delicious gluten-free alternatives available. Altering food preparation habits can be an adventure and you may discover a whole new culinary world. Qualified help is available: some chefs, dieticians, nutritionists and other health professionals recognize the importance of this condition and can provide much-needed support. Enjoy the journey!