Celiac Disease

1 in every 133 Americans has Celiac Disease.  Celiac Disease is becoming more and more common.  Celiac disease is a condition that damages the lining of the small intestine and prevents it from absorbing parts of food that are important for staying healthy.  People who have celiac disease cannot tolerate gluten, a protein in wheat, rye, and barley. Gluten is found mainly in foods but may also be found in everyday products such as medicines, vitamins, and lip balms.

Celiac Disease can be a very dangerous and painful Disease to have.  It is estimated that 83% of Americans who have celiac disease are undiagnosed or misdiagnosed with other conditions.  Not being diagnosed or being misdiagnosed can be very hazardous. 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, iron-deficiency anemia caused by menstrual blood loss, inflammatory bowel disease, diverticulitis, intestinal infections, and chronic fatigue syndrome. As a result, celiac disease has long been underdiagnosed or misdiagnosed. When people with celiac disease eat foods or use products containing gluten, their immune system responds by damaging or destroying villi—the tiny, fingerlike protrusions lining the small intestine. Villi normally allow nutrients from food to be absorbed through the walls of the small intestine into the bloodstream. Without healthy villi, a person becomes malnourished, no matter how much food one eats.  16.7% of Americans with Celiac Disease are under the age of 12.  Malabsorption of nutrients during the years when nutrition is critical to a child’s normal growth and development can result in other problems such as failure to thrive in infants, delayed growth and short stature, delayed puberty, and dental enamel defects of the permanent teeth.

A new big thing is voluntarily going Gluten free. People try gluten-free diets in response to feeling tired, bloated or depressed, and find reducing gluten correlates with feeling better or losing weight.  Gluten-free living appeals to about 30% of Americans, but can actually be more harmful to your body than healthy.  Studies have found that gluten-free diets can be seriously nutrient-deficient. People on this diet can be low in fiber, iron, folate, niacin, thiamine, riboflavin, calcium, phosphorus and zinc. That’s because so many “gluten-free” products are made with refined, unenriched grains and starches, which contain plenty of calories but very few vitamins or minerals. If you want to go on the Gluten diet, make sure that you consult a dietitian. We often get nutrients and daily fiber from fortified, gluten-containing products like cereal and bread, so gluten-free eaters may find them selves lacking form time to time without careful substitution. A registered dietitian familiar with the unique requirements of eating gluten-free can propose substitutions to make sure you’re loaded up with all the essential nutrients.

IpswichHigh school senior, Brittany Barbarisi, has decided to go gluten free voluntarily.  Barbarisi has been gluten free since July 3rd, 2013 and is loving it.  When asked why she first decided to go gluten free, Barbarisi said “I had a cousin who is also gluten free and she got me started. Once I started eating that way I felt so healthy and energized.  My Doctor also encourages my gluten free diet to help with my headaches.” I then asked how Brittany Barbarisi felt after she went gluten free, she said, “I feel very healthy and energized.  I used to always be tired and now I am not.”  I finally asked Barbarisi if being gluten free has affected her life in a bad way, she told me, “I have had no negative impacts to eating gluten free.  I make sure that sometimes I cheat and do eat gluten so I make sure that I won’t become intolerant to it”

Having Celiac disease can be very dangerous if not caught, but also not eating gluten for a diet can also be dangerous.  If you think that you have celiac disease make sure you consult with your physician.  At the same time, if you want to go gluten free by choice make sure you consult your physician as well.

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