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Do you know about celiac disease? Do you know what gluten is and what foods contain gluten? Get in the know: May is National Celiac Disease Awareness Month.

National Celiac Disease Awareness Month

There’s been a lot of talk lately about celiac disease and gluten. Some people must follow a gluten-free diet, others do it because they want to and still others don’t know what it’s all about. May is National Celiac Disease Awareness Month. Read on for more details about the way the disease and certain foods can affect people.

What is celiac disease?

Celiac disease is not a food allergy but an autoimmune disease. People can sometimes grow out of a food allergy, but that’s not the case with celiac disease. The disease causes a person’s immune system to have a bad reaction to gluten. Gluten is a protein in many foods, including some grains like wheat, rye and barley. If you have celiac disease and you eat foods that contain gluten, your immune system can damage your small intestine and prevent your body from absorbing nutrients from food.

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What are the symptoms of celiac disease?

There are many symptoms that can appear at any time in a person’s life. It’s a disease that affects kids and adults. Consult with your health care provider if you think you have a problem. Some of the symptoms of celiac disease can include the following:

  • Stomach cramps, intestinal gas
  • Bloated stomach
  • Chronic diarrhea or constipation (or both)
  • Anemia
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Fatigue and weakness
  • Migraines

Can you get tested for celiac disease?

There are tests to determine celiac disease. Contact your health care provider to help you through the discussion and process. There are several different blood tests to help screen for the disease. A physician will help you determine if you should have a small-bowel biopsy to confirm diagnosis.

Treatment for celiac disease

Celiac disease is a lifelong disorder. The only treatment for the disease is to follow a strict gluten-free diet. Once gluten is removed from your diet, your intestines should be able to heal and your health should improve. Following a gluten-free diet is a lifestyle change.

Check out this app to help you find gluten-free restaurants and businesses >>

If you find you must follow a gluten-free diet, you’ll need to commit to reading food labels carefully and to educating yourself on the types of food and food products that can contain gluten. There are more gluten-free products on the market now, which is helpful because you do not have to make all your food from scratch. With education and strict adherence to your diet, you can begin to feel better.

Foods that contain gluten and those that don’t

The good news: Fruits and vegetables are naturally gluten-free! The same is true for beef, chicken, lamb, pork, fish and dairy products. It’s best to talk to your health care provider for help to determine what you can and cannot eat. This is not a complete list and there are many gluten-free options available for many foods (pasta, soups, etc.), but below is a sample of foods that contain gluten:

  • Wheat (in all forms)
  • Rye (in all forms)
  • Barley (in all forms)
  • Breading and coating mixes
  • Processed lunch meats
  • Soup bases
  • Imitation bacon and seafood
  • Marinades, sauces and gravies
  • Pasta

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Many foods on the market now state if they are gluten-free. This is very helpful, but if isn't indicated on the label and you don’t know whether a certain product contains gluten, leave it on the shelf.

Some foods that do not contain gluten:

  • Rice
  • Corn
  • Soy
  • Potatoes
  • Beans
  • Quinoa
  • Millet
  • Buckwheat
  • Distilled alcoholic drinks and vinegar

More info

Celiac disease is one condition where you hold the key to better health. The more you know, the better. Consult the following resources on celiac disease: Celiac Disease Foundation, National Institutes of Health, American Celiac Disease Alliance

More about celiac disease and gluten

When gluten is hazardous to your health
How to convert a recipe to gluten-free
Six tips to live gluten-free

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