At Premier Medical Group, we want to help increase public awareness about celiac disease so individuals can understand the symptoms and access the support they need to live healthier lives. In this article, we’ll share information about the symptoms of celiac disease, what foods to avoid and strategies for coping with the disease.
What is Celiac Disease?
May represents an opportunity for each of us to celebrate Celiac Disease Awareness Month. But how much do you know about celiac disease and are you at risk for developing this autoimmune condition?
Let’s start by first talking about gluten, a protein found in wheat, barley, and rye. When individuals with celiac disease eat foods that contain gluten, their body triggers an attack against the small intestines. This results in inflammation that damages the lining of the small intestines.
Celiac disease, in essence, is an autoimmune disorder that occurs in individuals whose body has a negative reaction to gluten consumption. The disease can result in serious damage to the small intestines if left untreated.
Foods With Gluten
Many foods contain gluten, the protein commonly found in grains such as wheat, barley and rye. For people with celiac disease, consumption of gluten products such as bread, pasta, or pastries can trigger a range of symptoms, including abdominal pain, diarrhea, bloating and gas, fatigue, headaches, iron-deficiency anemia, missed periods or mouth ulcers.
Celiac disease can also affect the skin. One main symptom relates to the development of itchy lesions or skin rash – dermatitis herpetiformis – because of the body’s sensitivity to gluten. These lesions or blisters often appear on the forearm, buttocks or knees.
Individuals with celiac disease can limit their body’s exposure to gluten by checking food labels to verify the ingredients contained in foods and consuming only products that are gluten-free. Note also that in addition to foods such as bread, baked goods, pasta, and cereal, many other foods may contain gluten. Afterall, wheat is a common ingredient or additive in soups, gravy and beer.
How to Live a Gluten-Free Lifestyle
Gluten seems ubiquitous in most diets – especially in countries like the United States where wheat or gluten-rich products are abundant. Managing celiac disease requires a new kind of outlook but one that is possible thanks to increased resources and products made specifically for individuals with celiac disease. Below are a few tips that can help you cope with the disease or help you support others you may know, such as relatives or friends, that may have this autoimmune disease.
- Educate Yourself about Celiac Disease:
Learning about celiac disease and its symptoms is one of the most important steps an individual can make if they suspect they have celiac disease or have recently been diagnosed with the disease.
By understanding how gluten affects your body, you can take steps to avoid it and prevent the symptoms. Since symptoms can also worsen over time or lead to serious long-term conditions such as heart disease, iron deficiency, liver disease and infertility and miscarriages, it’s essential to reduce your exposure to gluten foods earlier rather than later.
You can start by consulting with a healthcare provider, registered dietitian, or a celiac support group to get more information about the condition. Our team at Premier Medical Group, for instance, includes a registered dietitian and nutritionist with extensive experience providing support and care to celiac patients.
- Read Food Labels Carefully:
Reading ingredient labels is one of the most effective tools to help you successfully maintain a gluten-free lifestyle. This will help you avoid eating foods with gluten, even if these food items only have small amounts of the protein.
Look for gluten-free labels or products that are naturally gluten-free. You can also use smartphone apps to scan barcodes and get information about the gluten content of products where possible.
- Plan Meals Often and Bring Gluten-Free Snacks:
Meal planning empowers you to have more control over what you consume and avoid the risk of gluten cross-contamination. Planning your meals and snacks in advance can help you avoid foods that contain gluten, all while you prioritize your health by choosing foods that help you gain the nutrients your body needs.
Make a grocery list and choose recipes that are naturally gluten-free or use gluten-free ingredients. You can also prepare meals in bulk so that you’ll have enough to last for a few days, thus reducing the time you need to prepare nutritious meals throughout the week. Should leftovers not be your preference, be prepared in those instances when you know you’ll eat out.
- Be Prepared When Eating Out:
Preparation is key when you are eating out and need gluten-free meals. Before you go to a restaurant, check the menu online or call ahead to ask about gluten-free options.
Even after confirming the best option, be ready to communicate your dietary needs again when you arrive. Share your dietary concerns with the server. Ask questions about how dishes are prepared and be ready to choose an alternative should you feel the restaurant is ill-prepared to provide foods that are safe for you to eat.
- Focus on Whole Foods:
Focusing on whole foods like fruits, vegetables, lean meats, and gluten-free grains can help you maintain a healthy, balanced diet while avoiding gluten. These foods are naturally gluten-free and provide essential nutrients like fiber, vitamins, and minerals.
Remember every “body” is different. Yours requires specialized care and a provider that knows your needs will be best equipped to help you on your path to renewed health and improved confidence. Whether you’ve been diagnosed with celiac disease or you’re concerned about your risk or genetic predisposition for the disease, never hesitate to seek the help you need. Contact Premier Medical Group today to consult with our gastroenterologists to learn more about celiac disease. Call us at 1-888-632-6099.