Celiac Disease, Gluten Sensitivity, & Gluten-Free Diets: What You Should Know
Myron Yau, HK BioTek Nutritionist
These days, more and more gluten-free products are emerging on the market. The barrage of publicity swarming the issue may be disorienting for someone unfamiliar with Celiac disease or gluten-free lifestyles. In fact, many people who may suffer from Celiac disease or could benefit from a gluten-free diet never get diagnosed. This can happen for a number of reasons ranging from the lack of proper diagnosis to misinformation. At Urban Health, we will do our best to help you understand what Celiac disease is, how to diagnose it, the benefits of gluten-free diets, and the steps you can take to effectively introduce the diet into your life.
What is Celiac Disease?
Celiac disease “is an immune reaction to eating gluten, a protein found in wheat, barley and rye.” This reaction directly damages the intestinal lining and can lead to malabsorption of nutrients.
Malabsorption decreases nutrient flow to vital organs. If antibodies attributed to Celiac disease are not present this means that you may be gluten sensitive. Though not as severe, gluten sensitivity can lead to the same symptoms as Celiac disease, which include but are not limited to: fatigue, migraines, autoimmune diseases, and mood issues (depression, anxiety ADHD).
How to Diagnose For Celiac Disease
Many people have Celiac Disease or gluten sensitivity but don’t know it. It is a common misconception that Asians do not face issues regarding gluten-intolerance. However, this is not the case, as Celiac disease becomes more and more prevalent in Asian communities. A 2012 Mayo Clinic study found that in Asia the “incidence of celiac disease is around four times higher than it was five decades ago“. Therefore, it is important for everyone to know if they have Celiac disease or face issues with the digestion of gluten products.
There are two main ways to find out if you have Celiac disease or gluten sensitivity. The first is to get a test from a nutritionist or an M.D.
The next option would be to go on an elimination diet. An elimination diet takes 2-3 weeks during which you should fully eliminate your consumption of gluten. After this, reintroduce gluten to your diet and see if you notice any effects from the gluten. If you notice a significant decrease in your well-being, it is extremely likely that you have a problem with gluten in your diet.
How to Eat Gluten-Free
There is no way around it–initially adapting to a gluten-free diet can seem like a daunting task. A few guidelines should be established:
Certain foods should always be avoided unless they are explicitly labelled as gluten-free, such as: pasta, bread, cereals, beer, potato chips, and salad dressings.
You must be careful that foods have not been processed with gluten containing grains. There are many different products containing wheat which must be avoided, such as: bulgur, durum flour, farina, graham flour, kamut, semolina, and spelt. It is also important to make sure that drinks don’t contain barley, rye, triticale, or wheat.
Cross-contamination can take place during food preparation when foods come into contact with gluten. This can occur in factories, your home kitchen, or at restaurants. Be sure to specify with the chef when you are ordering your food, wash thoroughly the utensils that have come into contact with gluten, and examine labels for gluten-containing products that are used in processing.
Benefits of Gluten-free Diet
A gluten-free diet will help to eliminate the negative side effects which come with Celiac disease and gluten-sensitivity. For those of us who do not have either, a gluten-free diet may not necessarily be of much benefit. However, if you are experiencing any of the negative side effects which come with gluten sensitivity, it does not hurt to try an elimination diet. If you see an improvement in your health, this likely means that you experience a certain degree of gluten-sensitivity. A gluten-free diet then would be of great benefit for you.