Celiac disease: Living gluten free

October is Celiac Disease Awareness month. Thankfully, our understanding of this disease, which affects one in 133 Americans, has grown significantly over the last few years.

Individuals with celiac disease can’t tolerate gluten, a protein found in many foods. If consumed, gluten causes damage to the small intestine and negatively impacts nutrient absorption.

Gluten is found in foods that are derived from barley (including malt), rye and wheat. Many foods contain gluten including salad dressings, pasta, sauces, bread crumbs, marinades and several others. An individual with celiac must be skilled at reading ingredient lists in order to avoid unsafe foods and very careful about cross contamination.

As celiac disease is an illness and not an allergy, individuals can’t outgrow it and must therefore adopt a gluten free lifestyle. The good news is that if a proper diet is followed and other sources of gluten are eliminated, an individual can live symptom free.

Unless you have celiac disease (or a diagnosed allergy to gluten) you do not need to eliminate gluten in your diet. For most, consuming gluten is not harmful, doesn’t encourage weight gain and, despite many studies, has not been found to influence behavior or other illnesses.

Looking for a terrific gluten free recipe? Try this one for a Crustless Spinach Quiche from Cabot, www.cabotcheese.coop/pages/recipes/recipe.php?id=59.

Allison J Stowell MS, RD, CDN is the registered dietitian at The Center for Advanced Pediatrics at 901 Ethan Allen Highway, Ridgefield. (www.thecenterforadvancedpediatrics.com/ridgefield-office.html).

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