By: Larry Studt, M.D., Occupational Health & Medicine Program, Sacred Heart and St. Joseph Hospitals
Celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder where the ingestion of gluten leads to damage in the small intestine. Celiac disease can be difficult to diagnose because it affects people differently. There are about 300 known symptoms which may occur in the digestive system or other parts of the body. Some people with celiac disease have no symptoms at all. Often, symptoms of celiac disease are confused with other disorders, such as irritable bowel syndrome and lactose intolerance. Classic signs of celiac disease are diarrhea and weight loss.Currently, the only treatment for celiac disease is lifelong adherence to a strict gluten-free diet.
People living gluten-free must avoid foods with wheat, rye and barley, such as bread and beer. Even ingesting small amounts of gluten, like crumbs from a cutting board or toaster, can trigger small intestine damage.
Many people are choosing a gluten-free diet, even if they don't suffer from celiac disease. Be sure to talk with your doctor and use some caution. Many whole grains that contain gluten offer special nutritional benefits. They're rich in an array of vitamins and minerals, such as B vitamins and iron, as well as fiber. Studies show that whole grain foods, as part of a healthy diet, may help lower risk of heart disease, type-2 diabetes, and some forms of cancer.
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