You were just told you have Celiac disease and now you have to eliminate all gluten from your diet. You may be thinking “What the heck is gluten? What do you mean I can’t eat bread and pasta and cake and brownies? How will I live?”

Don’t freak out just yet. You still can eat yummy foods, just not the same ones you used to eat. No more grabbing a hot dog at the ballgame or eating those cupcakes or cookies in the break room. It takes some work and some adjustment but you CAN live gluten free and still enjoy life.

Gluten is a protein found in foods processed from wheat, barley, and rye. It can be found in foods you would never think of like canned soups, ice cream and sauces and it can also be used in medicines, cosmetics and hair products.

Luckily, food manufacturers have come a long way regarding gluten free foods. There are all kinds of pasta and breads and baked goods that are now made gluten-free; not to mention the fact that fruit, vegetables, and most meats are naturally gluten free. Be careful of processed meats like hot dogs and lunch meat though – a lot of them are not gluten free.

Gluten-free foods are also generally healthier and better for you than their gluten-filled counterparts. They have lfewerpreservatives and additives in them.  That’s not to say that you can go and make a gluten free cake and eat the whole thing without consequences though!!

Stick with me and I will try to help you navigate through this new eating lifestyle and see that you still can enjoy yummy foods, they’ll just be gluten free!

Celiac disease

Celiac disease is an autoimmune digestive disease/disorder that damages the villi of the small intestine and interferes with absorption of nutrients from food. It is triggered by consuming a protein called gluten which is found in wheat, barley and rye. When a person with Celiac disease consumes this gluten, it interferes with the absorption of nutrients by damaging a part of their small intestine called villi. This damage will make it almost impossible for their body to absorb the needed nutrients into the bloodstream.

Celiac disease can lead to a number of other disorders, some of which include infertility, reduced bone density, neurological disorders, some cancers, thyroid disease, osteoporosis, and other autoimmune diseases.

There are NO pharmaceutical cures for Celiac disease. The only treatment is to follow a 100% gluten free diet, 100% of the time.

Here are some facts regarding Celiac disease according to the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness. They are a great resource and I definitely recommend checking their website out at  www.celiaccentral.org

*It is estimated that 1 in 130 Americans has celiac disease. That means little less than  1% of the population has celiac problems.

*It is estimated that 80% of all Americans who have celiac disease are misdiagnosed with other health conditions.

*Nearly 3 million people have celiac disease and most don’t know it and probably never will. Celiac disease is the most common genetic disease of mankind. The statistics show that for every person diagnosed 140 will go undiagnosed.

*Celiac disease does equally affects men, women and children across all backgrounds and ages.

* For someone with Celiac disease, it takes 6 to 10 years on average to be correctly diagnosed. Source: Daniel Leffler, MD, MS, The Celiac Center at Beth Israel Deaconness Medical Center.

*5-20% of Celiac patients have an immediate family member who also is Celiac.

Having Celiac disease will definitely change the way you live your life and I won’t lie, it can be a very difficult adjustment at first. On a positive note though, it is the only disease that a person can have that can be completely controlled by avoiding eating certain foods.

What is Gluten

“Gluten” is the general term for a mixture of many protein fragments (called peptide chains or polypeptides) contained in common cereal grains. Gluten is classified in two groups, the prolamins and the glutelins. The most troublesome component of gluten is the prolamin called gliadin.

If we look at the different grains we find that each has its own prolamin.

The following list gives the type of prolamin each grain contains. The percentage of protein the prolamin has in relationship to the entire grain:

  • Wheat – Highest content of Gliadin (69%)
  • Rye – contains Secalinin – (30-50%)
  • Oats – non-toxic Avenin (16%)
  • Barley – high in Hordein – (46-52%)

Researchers suggest that the avenins are not toxic and do not contain gluten. There is certain similarity of avenins to gliadin. Therefore about 10% of celiacs have the same autoimmune reaction and cannot tolerate oats. Additionally, most celiacs also avoid oats due to cross-contamination issues with gluten during the processing of the oats. However, 100% gluten-free oats are now widely available and can be included as a part of a gluten-free diet.