What is Celiac Disease?
Often mistaken as a food allergy, celiac disease is a genetic disorder where individuals have an immune system reaction to gluten, a protein found in wheat, rye and barley (see my discussion about oats). Gone undetected, celiac disease can lead to damage of the small intestine and eventually malnourishment.
How is it treated?
For celiac disease, diet truly is the only treatment. Preventing the ingestion of foods that trigger reaction is the primary focus of meal planning. Gluten is extremely prevalent in our food supply and in nonfood items (like medications), so it is essential that you become a food label detective when diagnosed with celiac disease.
Although shopping is becoming easier as more manufacturers produce gluten-free versions of traditionally non-gluten-free foods, learning how to shop gluten free is no day at the park. Why? The term “gluten free” has yet to be defined by the FDA. And although the 2006 mandate for listing potential food allergens covers wheat, it does not cover rye, barley or the gluten derived from these grains.
Without an official regulated definition for what is considered “gluten free” (i.e.: how many parts per million of gluten should be allowed in a food for it to be labeled gluten free?), manufacturers may or may not list their items as gluten free. Therefore, every day ingredients and staple groceries need to be investigated for their gluten-free status.
Learning how to eat gluten free will come with accurate education from reliable sources and repeated meetings with a celiac specialized dietitian. Over time, you will develop your own shopping list of "safe" and "unsafe" foods.