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Thread: Background on Gluten Intolerance/Celiac Disease

  1. #1
    Administrator Islander's Avatar
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    16th September 2007
    Maine, USA. The way life should be.

    Default Background on Gluten Intolerance/Celiac Disease

    Gluten Intolerance (of which Celiac disease is the extreme) is a digestive condition triggered by consumption of the protein gluten, which is found in bread, pasta, cookies, pizza crust and many other foods containing wheat, barley or rye. If you have gluten intolerance (GI) and eat foods containing gluten, an immune reaction occurs in your small intestine, causing damage to the surface of your small intestine and an inability to absorb certain nutrients.
    Eventually, the decreased absorption of nutrients (malabsorption) can cause vitamin deficiencies that deprive your brain, peripheral nervous system, bones, liver and other organs of vital nourishment. This can lead to other illnesses and stunted growth in children.

    It is estimated that one in 133 people in the U.S. may be sensitive to gluten. The condition is hereditary but may appear later in life, often after some sort of trauma or life-changing event. Those of Northern and Eastern European ancestry seem to be more prone to GI; those whose roots are Irish or Scandinavian may have an incidence as high as 1 in 50 or 60. Symptoms are many and varied, so the condition often goes undiagnosed or misdiagnosed.


    Normally, your small intestine is lined with tiny, hair-like projections called villi. Resembling the deep pile of a plush carpet on a microscopic scale, villi work to absorb vitamins, minerals and other nutrients from the food you eat. Celiac disease results in damage to the villi. Without villi, the inner surface of the small intestine becomes less like a plush carpet and more like a tile floor, and your body is unable to absorb nutrients necessary for health and growth. Instead, nutrients such as fat, protein, vitamins and minerals are eliminated with your stool.

    The exact cause of GI is unknown, but it's often inherited. If someone in your immediate family has it, chances are 5 to 15 percent that you may as well. Many times, for reasons that aren't clear, the disease emerges after some form of trauma: an infection, a physical injury, the stress of pregnancy, severe stress or surgery.


    There are no typical signs and symptoms of GI or celiac disease. Most people with the disease have general complaints, such as:
    • Intermittent diarrhea
    • Abdominal pain
    • Bloating
    Sometimes people with GI may have no gastrointestinal symptoms at all. GI symptoms can also mimic those of other conditions, such as irritable bowel syndrome, gastric ulcers, Crohn's disease, parasite infections, anemia, skin disorders or a nervous condition.
    GI or celiac disease may also present itself in less obvious ways, including:
    • Irritability or depression
    • Anemia
    • Stomach upset
    • Joint pain
    • Muscle cramps
    • congestion, phlegm, persistent cough
    • shortness of breath
    • brain fog (cloudy thinking, forgetfulness, inability to concentrate)
    • Skin rash
    • weight gain
    • insomnia
    • Mouth sores
    • Dental and bone disorders (such as osteoporosis)
    • Tingling in the legs and feet (neuropathy)
    Some indications of malabsorption that may result from celiac disease include:
    • Weight loss
    • Diarrhea
    • Abdominal cramps, gas and bloating
    • General weakness and fatigue
    • Foul-smelling or grayish stools that may be fatty or oily
    • Stunted growth (in children)
    • Osteoporosis
    • Anemia
    Treatments and drugs

    GI/Celiac disease has no cure, but you can effectively manage the disease through changing your diet.

    Once gluten is removed from your diet, inflammation in your small intestine will begin to subside, usually within several weeks, though you may start to feel better in just a few days. If your nutritional deficiencies are severe, you may need to take vitamin and mineral supplements recommended by your doctor or dietitian to help correct these deficiencies. Complete healing and regrowth of the villi may take several months in younger people and as long as two to three years in older people.

    Avoiding gluten is essential
    To manage the disease and prevent complications, it's crucial that you avoid all foods that contain gluten. Even a small amount of gluten is enough to cause symptoms and complications — that means all foods or food ingredients made from many grains, including wheat, barley and rye. This includes any type of wheat (including farina, graham flour, semolina and durum), barley, rye, bulgur, Kamut, kasha, matzo meal, spelt and triticale.
    Amaranth, buckwheat and quinoa are gluten-free as grown, but may be contaminated by other grains during harvesting and processing, so be sure the label says gluten-free or manufactured in a gluten-free facility. Cross-contamination may also occur if gluten-free products are prepared in unwashed bowls previously containing gluten products. Oats may not be harmful for most people with celiac disease, but oat products are frequently contaminated with wheat, so it's best to avoid oats as well.
    The question of whether people eating a gluten-free diet can consume pure oat products remains a subject of scientific debate. Difficulties in identifying the precise components responsible for the immune response and the chemical differences between wheat and oats have contributed to the controversy.
    Your doctor may recommend that you meet with a dietitian who can instruct you on a gluten-free diet. There are still many basic foods allowed in a gluten-free diet. These include:
    • Fresh meats, fish and poultry (not breaded or marinated)
    • Most dairy products
    • Fruits
    • Vegetables
    • Rice
    • Potatoes
    • Gluten-free flours (rice, soy, corn, potato)
    Most foods made from grains contain gluten. Avoid these foods unless they're labeled as gluten-free or made with corn, rice, soy or other gluten-free grain:
    • Breads
    • Cereals
    • Crackers
    • Pasta
    • Cookies
    • Cakes and pies
    • Gravies
    • Sauces
    Many other foods have ingredients that contain gluten. Grains containing gluten may be used in food additives, such as malt flavoring, modified food starch and others. While it’s a challenge to avoid foods that contain gluten such as wheat, rye, barley, kamut, einkorn, spelt and triticale, it is even harder to avoid these grains when they might be in foods you would not suspect. For instance, an ingredient from a forbidden grain might be in luncheon meat, soy sauce, malt vinegar, beer and even a communion wafer. Thus sufferers have to have a sharp eye on food labels of all products, not just those in the bread aisle. Other sources of gluten that might come as a surprise include medications and vitamins that use gluten as a binding agent, lipstick, postage stamps and contamination of gluten-free foods with foods containing gluten. Cross-contamination may occur anywhere ingredients come together, such as on a cutting board. You may also be exposed to gluten by using the same utensils as others, such as a bread knife, or by sharing the same condiment containers.

    Gluten-free products abound
    Fortunately for bread and pasta lovers with celiac disease, there are an increasing number of gluten-free products on the market. If you can't find any at your local bakery or grocery store, check with a celiac support group or the Internet for availability. In fact, there are gluten-free substitutes for many gluten-containing foods. Gluten-free products can be made with rice, corn, soy, potato, tapioca, bean, sorghum, quinoa, millet, buckwheat, tef and nut flours.
    Identifying gluten-free foods can be difficult. Because a gluten-free diet needs to be strictly followed, you may wish to consult a registered dietitian who is experienced in teaching the gluten-free diet. A dietitian can advise you on how to best maintain the nutritional quality of your diet and help you come up with gluten-free alternatives. She or he will also help you identify your need for vitamin, calcium and mineral supplements. Revisiting the dietitian over the years will help keep you up to date on newer food products as well as answer your questions.

    What if you eat gluten?
    If you accidentally eat a product that contains gluten, you may experience abdominal pain and diarrhea. Some people experience no signs or symptoms after eating gluten, but this doesn't mean it's not hurting them. Even trace amounts of gluten in your diet can be damaging, whether or not they cause signs or symptoms.
    Most people with celiac disease who follow a gluten-free diet have a complete recovery. Rarely, people with severely damaged small intestines don't improve with a gluten-free diet. When diet isn't effective, treatment often includes medications to help control intestinal inflammation and other conditions resulting from malabsorption.

    Lifestyle Changes

    Following a gluten-free diet may leave you angry and frustrated, understandably so. But with time, patience and a little creativity, you'll find there are many foods that you can still eat and enjoy. Following are some tips to help you on your way to a safe and healthy diet.

    Read food labels
    Food labels are your lifeline to better health. Always read the food label before you purchase any product. Some foods that may appear acceptable, such as rice or corn cereals, may contain gluten. What's more, a manufacturer may change a product's ingredients at any time. A food that was once gluten-free no longer may be. Unless you read the label every time you shop, you won't know this.

    Call the manufacturer
    If you can't tell by the label if a food contains gluten, don't eat it until you check with the product's manufacturer. Some support groups produce a gluten-free shopper's guide that can save you time at the market, although it may not be as current as that obtained from the manufacturer.

    Don't be afraid to eat out
    Though preparing your own meals is the easiest way to monitor your diet, this doesn't mean you can't eat out. For an enjoyable dining experience, remember the following advice:
    • Select places that specialize in the kinds of foods you can eat. You may want to call the restaurant in advance and discuss the menu options and your dietary needs.
    • Be a repeat customer. Visit the same restaurants so that you become familiar with their menus and the personnel get to know your needs.
    • Seek and share ideas. Ask members of your support group for suggestions on restaurants that serve gluten-free food. If there are enough gluten-sensitive people in your community, it's likely that restaurant owners will try to satisfy your needs. Continue to share with the support group the names of any restaurants that add gluten-free foods to their menus.
    • Follow the same practices you do at home. Select simply prepared or fresh foods and avoid all breaded or batter-coated foods, gravies and other foods with obvious or questionable ingredients.
    Natural food stores and even many supermarkets now have a gluten-free section. Additionally, I found this searchable database to be a helpful site: Here you can search for gluten-free products by type (dairy, dessert, soups etc.) and by brand name.

    Sources for this information include
    Last edited by Islander; 03-20-10 at 01:02 PM.

  2. #2
    Administrator Islander's Avatar
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    16th September 2007
    Maine, USA. The way life should be.

    Default Re: Background on Gluten Intolerance/Celiac Disease

    I initiated this category because of the discovery that I myself was GI. This totally unexpected diagnosis explains most of the recent issues I've been dealing with. I began addressing it on Friday, March 19, 2010 and will be checking in to document progress in alleviating symptoms.

    Yeast overgrowth (Candida albicans) often accompanies GI; it's a result of "leaky gut syndrome." Damage to the intestines allows tiny bits of food particles to escape and enter the bloodstream, and the result is the spread of Candida throughout the body. I suspect I have this as well, because one of the causes is a course of steroids — and I was on three consecutive courses of steroids after damage to my hearing last winter.

    I don't know much about Candida yet but will continue to research it, and welcome comments from members who are familiar with disease management. I do know that sugar and any other sweeteners (except stevia) are OFF the list for those fighting Candida overgrowth. Same with mushrooms.

    The good news (for me) is that the diet restrictions for GI and Candida are not radically different from those I was following to manage my diabetes (which I succeeded in reversing). Mainstays of my diet already include organic meats and fresh vegetables, and bread has been pretty much off the list right along. Corn-based foods like polenta and certain corn-based snack chips (Xochitl) are okay. I can continue to have fish chowder and corn chowder (my favorites!) with raw milk. I've even found gluten-free pastas and Cabot cheese. It's possible that my life may slowly return to some semblance of normal!

  3. #3
    Veteran Member DizzyIzzy's Avatar
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    29th October 2008
    Aotearoa - Land of erm... sheep and clouds and grumpy volcanoes

    Default Re: Background on Gluten Intolerance/Celiac Disease

    Woohoo, you go girl!!

    A suggestion on helping it heal... can you access colostrum anywhere (maybe from where you get the raw milk from?) It's one of the best things for healing gut damage, villi damage, and leaky gut - one of the ways it works in calves is to heal up the leaky gut they're born with! - and is great for suppressing candida. If you could get hold of some that'd be worth a shot for a few months.

  4. #4
    Veteran Member Aaltrude's Avatar
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    2nd November 2008

    Default Re: Background on Gluten Intolerance/Celiac Disease

    Quote Originally Posted by DizzyIzzy
    Woohoo, you go girl!!

    A suggestion on helping it heal... can you access colostrum anywhere (maybe from where you get the raw milk from?) It's one of the best things for healing gut damage, villi damage, and leaky gut - one of the ways it works in calves is to heal up the leaky gut they're born with! - and is great for suppressing candida. If you could get hold of some that'd be worth a shot for a few months.
    One thing to be careful of as far as colostrum is concerned is that lactose intolerance often accompanies gluten intolerance as the part of the villii that produces the lactase enzyme to break down the lactose is damaged by the gluten however a lactose intolerance brought on in this manner will reverse itself after you have avoided gluten for a while and the villii have healed. (Does colostrum contain lactose Izzy? I'm assuming it does). I'm not sure how you could work out if you are also lactose intolerant though. For me, it was obvious from the painful stomach cramps I got shortly after eating a dish such as cauliflower cheese, it did not happen with small amounts of dairy. The lactose intolerance was subsequently confirmed by testing.

  5. #5
    Veteran Member DizzyIzzy's Avatar
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    29th October 2008
    Aotearoa - Land of erm... sheep and clouds and grumpy volcanoes

    Default Re: Background on Gluten Intolerance/Celiac Disease

    I'm not sure on pure colostrum... the stuff I sell has no lactose in it, so people who are lactose intolerant can have it. But I'm not sure if it does or not fresh from the cow, that's a good question - will see what I can find out!!

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