If Your Friend or Loved One Has Celiac Disease, Here's What You Need to Know

Health & Wellness By Karla

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Gluten-free foods may have become a trend in recent years, but for some people, it's their everyday life. Those suffering from celiac disease need to keep their diet in check and make sure they're 100% gluten-free. Here's what you need to know.

What Is Celiac Disease

Celiac disease is an autoimmune disease where the ingestion of gluten ( a group of proteins found in grains) wreaks havoc and creates damage and inflammation in the small intestine, preventing nutrients from being efficiently absorbed into the body. This occurs because the body recognizes gluten as a toxin and destroys its own cells which are trying to digest it.All autoimmune diseases are serious conditions that need to be kept under control throughout a person's life, as they're not curable. They can show up anytime and even go into remissions, but they can also be re-triggered when another immune-stressor comes knocking on the door. To make things even worse, those with an existing autoimmune disease have a greater risk of developing another one in the future.If undiagnosed or left untreated, celiac disease can develop serious and long-term health-complications such as anemia, early-onset osteoporosis or osteopenia, infertility and miscarriage, various vitamin and mineral deficiencies, pancreatic insufficiency, Intestinal lymphomas and other GI cancers (malignancies), and many other.This is why sticking to strict dieting guidelines does more than just ensure you fit into your favorite jeans and help you stay healthy and thriving for years to come.

Foods To Avoid

Those suffering from celiac disease need to be 100% clear of gluten-containing foods. And even though wheat, barley, rye, and all their derivatives are the obvious culprits, gluten can be hiding in many packaged foods, restaurant sauces and dressings, as well as many wheat-containing foods that haven't even crossed your mind.This means a person needs to go through rigorous research, diligently read every label, and ask a bunch of questions in every restaurant and cafe in the world. And although the restaurant scene is handling allergies and intolerances better now then it did 10 years ago, there's always the issue of potential "traces" a person with celiac disease needs to be aware of.

Traces of Gluten

When you read a claim stating how traces of gluten can be found in a packaged food product or in your favorite neighborhood restaurant dish, what it actually means is that the food was, or could have been, in direct contact with another gluten-containing food.Take a pizzeria for example. They're known for making great regular pizzas and have just recently added a gluten-free option to their menu, but they only have one wood-fired oven where they bake all of them.The chances of your gluten-free crust baking on top of leftover wheat flour from the pizza before are big, so your pizza can actually end up with traces of gluten on its bottom, potentially causing a celiac outbreak and reaction.You might wonder how they're allowed to call it gluten-free when it actually might not be the case. See, the thing is, celiac disease is a serious gluten-related condition but it's not the only one. There are people who only suffer from gluten intolerance or sensitivity, and they are more often than not, fine with traces of gluten as their body won't recognize it, or at least if it does, the reaction will be very mild.Those with celiac disease need to make sure none of their food items can possibly contain gluten as even the slightest particle could potentially cause a reaction. It doesn't have to, but it could. And that's a risk no one should be taking.

Gluten-Free Substitutes

When it comes to gluten-free substitutes, there's plenty you can choose from. And although many people believe how those having to be on this strict diet can't eat anything, that's absolutely not true; they just need to be more careful.Many foods are naturally gluten-free. As a matter of fact, a vast majority is. From grains such as corn, rice, millet, buckwheat, quinoa, to all nuts, seeds, beans and legumes, vegetables and fruit, as well as animal sources. Come to think of it, gluten-containing foods actually fit into a very small group, but their usage is vast. From bread, pastry, pasta, and desserts, it's hard to find their gluten-free substitutes.Nevertheless, once you get into the habit of making gluten-free foods and following gluten-free recipes, you'll realize it's easier than you thought. And thanks to the worldwide gluten-abolishing trend, more and more restaurants are offering gluten-free substitutes, dishes, and even entire menus.One thing to keep in mind though is to pay attention to the sugar content of packaged gluten-free foods as they're often packed with it in order to substitute the taste. These foods aren't the best option in any way because they're overly processed and filled with a bunch of colorings and additives that can furthermore inflame your body. Stick to naturally gluten-free foods or learn how to make them yourself.

What Can You Do?

If your friend or loved one has celiac disease, here are a few pointers on what to do and how to help them when they're in a difficult situation:

  • Always make sure you check each ingredient list and scrutinize every label when you're preparing food for them.
  • Know that artificially gluten-free foods aren't always the better option - go for naturally gluten-free foods instead.
  • Help them navigate an awkward situation when they find themselves in a restaurant with a rude waiter who doesn't seem to understand how grave this disease is.
  • Educate yourself on celiac disease and really learn to understand how it all works and why gluten is their ultimate enemy.
  • Learn how different people have different levels of celiac disease and how it might affect them differently. Some have severe bloating and digestive issues, while others even develop skin problems or inexplicable rash patches.
  • Be the support they need when they're going through a rough period.

Celiac disease is no joke and if someone in your close circle is suffering from it, do your best to educate yourself on it, learn what foods to avoid and what to include, and help them when they're not feeling their best. 

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