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By Joanna Manero

The Scoop on Gluten Free: Research and Practice Tips

Gluten-free eating may be a popular trend among fad dieters; however, to a person with Celiac disease, it may not look so glamorous.  Celiac disease is an autoimmune disease in which the ingestion of gluten leads to an immune attack to the small intestine.  The villi in the small intestine become damaged, which leads to malabsorption of nutrients.

According to a large multicenter study carried out by Alessio Fasano and his research team (2003), celiac disease affects 1 in 133 Americans; however, when people have first-degree relatives with the disease, the incidence increases to 1 in 22.  Unfortunately, the average length of time for a symptomatic person to reach a diagnosis is four years. This delay can lead to substantial damage to the intestine that can take years to repair leading to further complications.  This difficulty in diagnosis is likely because celiac disease can present itself so differently from one person to the next.  Some people may even be asymptomatic. However, about 200 symptoms have been associated with the disease.  The most common symptoms are below.

In Children:

  • Abdominal bloating and pain
  • Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder
  • Behavioral issues
  • Chronic diarrhea
  • Constipation
  • Delayed growth and puberty
  • Dental enamel defects of the permanent teeth
  • Failure to thrive
  • Fatigue
  • Short stature
  • Vomiting
  • Weight loss

In Adults:

  • Arthritis
  • Bone loss
  • Bone or joint pain
  • Canker sores
  • Depression or anxiety
  • Fatigue
  • Infertility or recurrent miscarriage
  • Iron-deficiency anemia
  • Liver or biliary tract disorders
  • Missed menstrual periods
  • Peripheral neuropathy
  • Seizures or migraines
  • Skin rash

You can see how many of these symptoms overlap with those of other diseases, making diagnosis challenging.  If you are suffering from one or more of these symptoms do not start a gluten free diet without getting a diagnosis first!  This is very important to accurately identify what is causing your symptoms.  Once you are diagnosed see a Dietitian to help you with the diet.

As of now, the only form of treatment for this disease is a strict gluten-free diet.  Once a client is diagnosed with celiac disease, eliminating gluten from their diet may seem like the next daunting task.  So what exactly is left to eat? Foods that are naturally gluten-free may be a place to start. These foods include:

  • Beans, Legumes, and Nuts
  • Dairy
  • Fruits
  • Fish and Seafood
  • Meat and Poultry
  • Vegetables

There’s also a variety of grains and other starchy foods that are gluten free. These include beans, cassava, chia, corn, flax, potato, quinoa, rice, sorghum, soy, tapioca, and yucca.  And finally, with a higher incidence of celiac disease and gluten sensitivity, the number of gluten-free products has also increased.  Most supermarkets now have sections dedicated to gluten-free versions of products that were once thought to be a distant memory for those suffering from the disease.

What are your experiences with celiac disease and gluten intolerance? 

Do your clients have a hard time getting a diagnosis as the literature suggests?

Share your opinions on gluten-free diets without medical reason below!

Celiac Disease Foundation: Gluten-Free Foods

Celiac Disease Foundation: Symptoms of Celiac Disease

Celiac Disease Facts and Figures. The University of Chicago Medicine  

Prevalence of Celiac Disease in At-Risk and Not-At-Risk Groups in the United States 

This was posted by Robin Allen, a member of OneOp (MFLN) Nutrition and Wellness team that aims to support the development of professionals working with military families.  Find out more about the OneOp Nutrition and Wellness concentration on our website, on Facebookon Twitterand LinkedIn.

CC Wikimedia Commons photo by Nephron