A little story with my daughter, Faith.
Faith was a healthy, strong 10 year old girl – a dancer, runner, very active and social. In the fall, she started to experience dramatic weight loss, extreme fatigue (could not stay awake in the car or during the day), dizzy (room spinning), headaches, blurred vision, no appetite and poor temperature control. She did not want to engage in activities she once loved. After multiple tests, going back and forth with her doctor and trips to SickKids hospital in Toronto, a celiac diagnosis was finally determined.
Why did celiac suddenly come on at age 10? What prompted it?
Celiac can start from either bacteria, a virus, stress (for Faith, food poisoning was the trigger) – or there can be no trigger at all.
What is the difference between celiac disease and gluten sensitivity – AKA an intolerance?
Celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder where the immune system attacks the protein gluten as an invader. Over time, the immune response will damage the small intestines lining (called villi) and will cause malabsoprtion. Celiac disease can lead to osteoporosis and other autoimmune conditions. Complete compliance to a gluten free life is necessary, and it affects 1% of the population.
Gluten intolerance or sensitivity does not cause an immune response (i.e. the body does not attack its own tissue) but can still cause similar symptoms to celiac. There are no specific bio markers for the sensitivity, so symptoms are considered. Currently, there is great debate and confusion on gluten sensitivity – however, there are many that do show a negative reaction to eating gluten (inflammation, stomach upset, bloating, fogginess, fatigue) but do not test as celiac. The best approach to follow if you suspect a gluten sensitivity is a complete a 30 day elimination diet to see if symptoms subside.
How do you test for celiac?
– Blood work for anti-bodies
– Biopsy – looking for villous atrophy – which are finger like projections that absorb your nutrients are destroyed
– Genetic testing
What sort of symptoms presents if you are celiac or have an intolerance to gluten?
Similar symptoms can present for celiacs and/or gluten intolerance, which include;
– Weight loss
– Joint pain
– Skin rash
What exactly is gluten?
– Gluten (a.k.a. gliadin) is the protein found in wheat and other grains such as rye, spelt, kamut, barley and cous cous.
– Common glutinous items include toast, bagels, cookies, pizza, muffins and crackers. Although, gluten can also be found in “hidden” sources such as multi –vitamins, teriyaki sauce, soy sauce, soups, cold cuts, French fries, salad dressings, most bacon products, cereals, hot dogs, ice creams, veggie burgers, beer, some oats, fruit fillings and puddings, commercially prepared chocolate milk.
What about oats – are they gluten free? And, what is cross contamination?
While oats are gluten free, they are often prepared in a facility that has gluten. If there is a cross reactivity (i.e. the oats have traces of gluten by touching the line where gluten free products were made) it can trigger a reaction.
What are gluten free grains?
– Quinoa, rice (brown, wild, white), teff, millet, buckwheat – you can also use almond tapioca, or coconut flour.
If gluten sensitive or celiac – how long do you have to eliminate gluten for?
– If you are celiac – complete compliance is required. For celiacs it can take up to 6 months to 2 years to see a zero anti-body response.
– For those who are gluten sensitive – after elimination they should feel much better in a very short time. They even may be able to introduce small amounts of gluten back into their diet in the future.
How hard is it to stick to a gluten free diet, and does it have to be fully eliminated?
– For those new to the gluten free world, the lifestyle is initially a bit of a learning curve but over time becomes second nature. Being a label reader is key to this process. To get started, check out my favourite gluten free products by clicking through the gallery below.
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