It’s not a celeb-endorsed weight-loss plan, trendy eating style or fancy menu item.
For people with celiac disease (CD), eating gluten-free (GF) is so much more — it’s treatment for their disease.
With this condition, the absorptive surface of the small intestine is damaged by ingesting gluten. (Gluten is a general name for a group of proteins in grains like wheat, rye and barley.) This damage can lead to a variety of symptoms, such as the inability of the body to absorb the nutrients it needs, including vitamins and minerals, which are necessary for good health.
The disease affects men and women (though it’s speculated that rates might be higher in women, as with most autoimmune diseases), and there’s no average age of diagnosis (when the disease tends to appear). These 15 serious diseases strike women more than men.
Traditionally, CD was thought of as a children’s disease, but experts now know that it can appear at any age, at any time, for people who are genetically predisposed. “It can strike at any time and be triggered by almost anything,” says Dr. Jenni Zelin, a family doctor with a special interest in CD in Charlottetown, P.E.I.
“It’s the great clinical chameleon because it can mimic other diseases and conditions with a variety of symptoms and signs,” says Dr. Zelin. Classic symptoms include chronic diarrhea and weight loss, but many sufferers also experience atypical symptoms that range from osteoporosis to neurological problems, to infertility. This makes CD very difficult to diagnose.
And, unfortunately, it’s likely that a lot of Canadians with CD are undiagnosed or misdiagnosed as a result.
What you need to know about celiac disease:
- It can strike at any time, even in adulthood, and be triggered by almost anything.
- Left unmanaged, the body’s ability to absorb nutrients, especially calcium and vitamin D, is reduced.
- If you are symptom-free, but are still eating some gluten, you could be setting off an autoimmune cascade that is damaging your body.
Diagnosed with celiac disease? Here are 8 expert-approved tips for conquering a gluten-free diet.