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Friday, May 20, 2011

Do you have Celiac Disease?

I don't. And I know this because I was tested for it several years ago. Blood tests that measure your body's response to gluten, ordered by your physician, are the first step towards diagnosis. Approximately 1 out of 133 Americans suffer from this disease every day. Astonishing! For those of you not familiar with the disease, it means that you have a gluten intolerance. For instance, that pizza my kids want for dinner tonight? A person suffering from Celiac wouldn't be able to have any. 

May is National Celiac Awareness Month and since I won't be cooking dinner tonight (and we still have some time before May is over) I thought I'd educate you a little bit on the disease. We, as a whole nation, tend to take food (or people or things, don't get me started) for granted until something affects someone you know's human nature I guess. 

Several years ago I was having gastrointestinal issues and this was one of the tests they gave me to rule it out. While waiting for results, I started doing some reading on the subject, only to find that if I did have this disease, I'd be in REALLY big trouble..Hello Carb Queen coming through! Once I was cleared, I really didn't give it much thought again until one of my oldest and dearest friends' daughter was diagnosed with this disease. She was in town visiting, and we were making plans to get together with the kids. Since it was around lunchtime, I was trying to figure out what I would make. Now, with my own kids, I'd just make them a sandwich or some macaroni and cheese or even throw in some chicken nuggets into the oven, but then I realized that my little friend wouldn't be able to eat that. So, out I ventured to my local supermarket, only to find that their gluten-free section was practically non-existent! 

According to U.S. News and World Report, nearly 15%-25% of consumers report looking for gluten-free products. Continuing growth in the gluten-free food industry is expected to continue, reaching $2.6 billion by 2012. That got me thinking about how hard it must be to live a gluten-free life where everything you eat could potentially make you sick. Forget about going out to dinner! I don't know how they do it. Just one dip in all-purpose flour vs. a gluten-free version could send some people running for the bathroom!

If you suffer from Celiac Disease, you can not eat any products containing wheat, barley, rye, and additives containing these ingredients. Those who are gluten-free eat a diet filled with fruits, vegetables, meats, beans, and legumes. Nuts and most dairy products are naturally gluten-free, and safe for people who do not have allergies to these food groups. Most people go undiagnosed, sometimes for many years. What does this mean? No bread, pasta, cookies, crackers, etc. or it could make you very sick.

There are a variety of alternatives that naturally do not contain gluten such as: Almond meal flour, Amaranth, Buckwheat, Coconut flour, Corn, Cornstarch, Guar Gum, Pea Flour, Potatoes, Potato Flour, Quinoa, Rice, Sorghum flour, Soy flour and White rice flour. 

Once diagnosed by your physician, a gluten-free diet is safe, and can help alleviate symptoms such as: fatigue, gastrointestinal distress, headaches (including migraines), infertility, insomnia, joint or muscle pain (which is often misdiagnosed as fibromyalgia), lactose intolerance, mood disorders, weight gain or loss, respiratory distress (including asthma) or skin disorders (often misdiagnosed as eczema). 

To learn more about Celiac Disease, visit the National Association for Celiac Awareness at Here you will find information including a symptoms checklist to share with your physician, training and education as well as living a gluten-free lifestyle.

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