Gluten is a protein, not normally harmful, and found in wheat, rye and barley. It is entirely common in foods across the world. Unfortunately, some people cannot tolerate gluten. Doing so will lead to serious health complications.
Celiac Sprue, or Celiac Disease as it’s more commonly called today, is an autoimmune disease of the small intestine. It is highly genetic and if one family member is diagnosed, the entire immediate family should be tested.
People with Celiac disease cannot digest gluten at all. When a Celiac eats foods containing gluten, the villi in the lower intestine becomes flattened, almost glued down to the intestine. This creates the problem since the villi are like millions of little hairs standing upright from their base, the small intestine, their job being to absorb the nutrients from your eaten foods so your body can use them. When the villi are flattened by gluten eaten by those who cannot, nutrients are not absorbed from food. Most people with Celiac have symptoms such as severe anemia, failure to thrive, malnutrition, chronic diarrhea or chronic constipation with stomach pain. Celiac can also go undetected if symptoms are subtle and misdiagnoses can be made. Left untreated for a period of time, Celiac can form life threatening disease such as intestinal cancer, lymphoma of the small bowel, ulcer formation of the small bowel and scarring with obstruction of the bowel occur. Untreated Celiac can also cause neurological damage such as Celiac Ataxia.
The remedy to Celiac disease or gluten intolerance is simple and difficult at the same time! No drugs needed. No surgery needed. Simply DO NOT EAT GLUTEN! Sounds easy until you start your first day, then week, of gluten free eating! I admit, it is much easier to be diagnosed today than it was twelve years ago. There are shelves and freezers full of gluten free substitutes to your favorite foods now! Many websites dedicated to recipes, and doctors who understand the disease. This is an easier time for us, but I also understand how difficult it still is to give up your favorite Chinese restaurant because they use fake soy sauce made with wheat, or that special snack cake that sparks happy childhood memories when you eat one, so it is still a challenge to live gluten free. It does get easier with time…twelve years later and I’m still waiting for the store shelves to sport a gluten free pop-tart!
In closing, Celiac disease and/or diagnosed gluten intolerance is a real disease. It may have gained some fad celebrity in the past couple years, but if one tries to eat a gluten free diet simply to lose weight, I don’t feel it will help much. If you do, however, gain energy, normalized iron levels, and your intestinal issues disappear, you may have a gluten intolerance and should talk to your doctor about the change you’ve experienced!