Gluten is a mixture of proteins found in grains such as wheat, rye, oats and barley. It is the product that makes foods made out of dough stick together and not crumble. When thinking of a product that might contain gluten think of products that are made out of flour. Common foods that contain gluten include biscuits, bread, pies, cakes and pizza.
The inability to tolerate gluten exists worldwide but is more prevalent in the European population. Gluten is not found only in doughy products. It can also be found in sauces, condiments, certain drinks such as those that contain barley and pharmaceutical products (where it might be used as a bulking agent).
Being gluten intolerant does not mean one has Celiac disease. Celiac disease is the more serious form of gluten intolerance. It is estimated that 1 in 130 people in this country has this disease. Most of them do not even know it. With Celiac disease, the presence of gluten triggers an immune response in the body- the small intestine becomes inflamed and ultimately damaged. This disease can be passed on genetically. Only your healthcare professional can diagnose Celiac disease.
More people are developing Celiac disease- those that had no symptoms before suddenly realize that after they eat certain foods they have one symptom or another. Most people in recent years can recall someone they know complaining of a particular symptom or multiple symptoms after they eat certain foods. The disease is also known to appear after the affected person has experienced severe stress, severe trauma or a serious infection.
Common symptoms seen when one is unable to tolerate gluten include:
- Abdominal pain
As the effects of a damaged small intestine become apparent other conditions often seen include:
- Weight loss
- Extreme fatigue
- Intolerance to Lactose
Individuals that have Celiac disease are more likely to have type 1 diabetes, Down syndrome, hypothyroidism or hyperthyroidism and chronically inflamed and itchy skin with a characteristic rash that often oozes pus.
Since there is no cure for Celiac disease, the only way to control it is to eliminate gluten containing products from the diet. As awareness of this disease has increased so has the presence of gluten free foods and the elimination of gluten from many products. Some manufacturers of prescription and non-prescription products are also playing their part by removing gluten from their products altogether.
The statements made here are for informational purposes only. They are not intended to replace the advice given by your healthcare professional.