It may seem like the latest thing in health trends but for many, being gluten-free is not a lifestyle choice but a medical necessity.
Celiac Disease is an immune-mediated response to gluten and affects 1 in every 100 people worldwide.
"And what that causes a lot of inflammation in the small bowel and this can lead to atrophy of the tissue" said Dr. Jeff Michalak, a gastroenterologist at MercyOne Siouxland.
Celiac Disease is an immune response to gluten that can lead to damage in the small intestine and if untreated, more serious complications.
So gluten is an allergy and so it causes inflammation specifically in the upper small bowel," Dr. Michalak explained. "And when that happens it can lead to pain, bloating, looser stools, and so from that standpoint, it should be avoided."
But what is gluten exactly? Common items like bread and cereals are typically full of gluten.
"So specifically your wheat, your barley, your ryes," Dr. Michalak said. "There's a lot of cereal even certain malts that can be in beer and alcoholic beverages."
Jackie Kuchta was diagnosed with celiac disease 8 years ago."The GI complaints along with migraines," she said of her major symptoms leading up to diagnosis, "almost a month-long migraines before we realize what was causing them."
She says finding foods that won't make her sick can sometimes be a challenge. "For true celiac disease, it is difficult to manage especially if you're the only one in the household that has the celiac disease," she said. "Then trying to ensure that you have an adequate nutrition level to ensure that you don't lose your the necessary vitamins and minerals that you need."
Most are diagnosed between the ages of 10 and 40 and Jackie says looking back, the signs she had an aversion to gluten were always there.
"(My) symptoms really hit about eight years ago, but looking back at childhood going out to eat on like Sundays or holidays, a lot of times I would end up with bloating abdominal pain after eating," she explained.
There is no cure for Celiac Disease, like many other immune disorders, but it can be managed by a careful diet and proper nutrition and lifelong adherence to being gluten-free.
To learn more about Celiac Disease, visit Celiac.org.
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