Gluten-Free and Celiac Disease
What is Celiac Disease?
Celiac disease is a genetically-linked autoimmune disorder caused by the small intestine reacting to gluten.52 For those who have been diagnosed with Celiac disease, gluten causes inflammation in the small intestines.53 This can cause pain, altered bowel movements, and malnutrition.52 According to specialist Dr. Alessano Fasano, celiac disease affects approximately 1 in 133 people.54 If someone believes that they may have celiac disease, they need to be diagnosed by a professional! Undiagnosed celiac disease can lead to osteoporosis, anemia, infertility, certain intestinal cancers, and other immune disorders.52 Eating a gluten-free diet helps people who are diagnosed with celiac disease control their signs and symptoms and prevent complications.53
The Gluten-Free Diet
Do not try a gluten-free diet before you see your physician and get diagnosed with celiac disease.53,55 A gluten-free diet is primarily used to treat celiac disease. A gluten-free diet excludes gluten from sources including bread.52 According to Dr. Fasano, “The gluten-free diet is not the South Beach diet. For celiacs, it’s a medical necessity.”56 If someone is planning to start a gluten-free diet, it is good to know that there is no scientific evidence to show that eliminating gluten promotes weight loss.57 Glenn Gaesser, PhD, a researcher and professor at Arizona State University, says “People who eliminate gluten may end up gaining weight because these foods often have more calories than their gluten-containing counterparts.”58 If one chooses to follow a gluten-free diet there is a potential that it can cause a decrease in the amount of beneficial bacteria in the gut. This can negatively impact the immune system.57 Peter H.R. Green, MD, the director at the Celiac Disease Center at Columbia University says, “Many people perceive that a gluten-free diet is healthier. Unless people are very careful, a gluten-free diet can lack vitamins, minerals, and fiber.”59 It is not recommended that you follow a gluten-free diet if you have not been diagnosed with celiac disease.57
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