Today kicks off National Celiac Awareness Month, a time dedicated to raising awareness of a condition that affects about one percent of Americans. Celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder and those suffering from it experience intestinal damage when they consume gluten, a type of protein found in wheat, rye and barley. Because of this, the only treatment for celiac disease is a strict gluten-free diet for life. We’re sure many of you have read about this diet in the media, and with all the misinformation out there, we want to use today’s post to share some important facts with you.
- Celiac disease is a serious condition. It brings with it a number of unpleasant side effects like abdominal pain, chronic fatigue and nutrient deficiencies, and can increase the risk for developing other conditions, such as intestinal cancer, later in life.
- You can’t diagnose yourself. If you suspect you have celiac disease, talk with your doctor before making any dietary changes. Most people are unaware that starting the gluten-free diet before getting tested can affect the accuracy of testing.
- There are many drawbacks to following the gluten-free diet. While we’ve all heard rumors of celebrities going g-free to lose weight, the truth is most people gain weight when starting the diet. Many gluten-free products contain more fat and sugar than their gluten-containing counterparts, equating to more calories and weight gain over time. Additionally, these products are typically lower in essential nutrients, like fiber, B vitamins and iron.
- If you have celiac disease, there are more options for you than ever before. For those of you reading this who do have celiac disease, the good news is the number of gluten-free products available is growing. Just be sure to work with a physician and registered dietitian specializing in celiac disease to help you plan the most nutritious gluten-free diet possible.