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How to Live a Healthy Life with Celiac Disease

Updated on April 2, 2016
Wheat field
Wheat field | Source

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What is Celiac Disease?

Celiac disease can be a life-threatening disease and sometimes hard to diagnose or is misdiagnosed. But for those with celiac disease, a proper diet can actually heal the damage to your intestines from celiac disease and live a healthy life.

Celiac disease is a disease of the digestive system that damages the small intestines and interferes with the body's ability to absorb nutrition from food. This causes malnutrition among numerous other symptoms and problems.

Celiac disease is usually genetic and affects 2 million Americans. It can affect as many as 1 in 22 Americans and appears to be more prominent among people with a parent, sibling or child who has celiac disease. It is caused by the body's abnormal reaction to anything containing gluten.

When someone with celiac disease eats foods that contain gluten, their immune systems responds by damaging or destroying the villi of the small intestine. The villi are what allow the nutrients from food to be absorbed into the blood. Sometimes celiac disease is misdiagnosed because it resembles numerous other medical problems including irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), ulcers, Crohns disease and even a parasitic infection.

And many times, celiac disease can go undiagnosed which causes the patient to continue eating gluten with the terrible symptoms continuing. A person with these symptoms can keep a food diary and find out exactly what foods are making them sick.

Gluten free bread made with quinoa and buckwheat.
Gluten free bread made with quinoa and buckwheat. | Source

Healing the Damage from Celiac Disease with Diet

I have talked to several people who have celiac disease and they are always very depressed and about to give up with their health and think they can never get better. Most every person I talked to, I found that they actually would never stick to the proper diet. They would for a while and then start eating the wrong foods again and end up depressed and sick all over again.

In order to heal your intestines and body, you have to strictly follow the proper diet the rest of your life. The most important part of your new diet is to avoid anything containing gluten, and that is hard to do.

Behind sugar, gluten is the second most prevalent food in the western diet. Being strict with your new diet will heal the small intestines over time, but even the smallest amount of gluten will cause the intestinal damage to start again. Even people who follow a strict no-gluten diet will sometimes feel bad again; this is usually because they had something that contained gluten without knowing it.

You have to pay close attention for the hidden gluten as well as the obvious. It also seems more people are becoming gluten intolerant. Thankfully, in 2006, the US government passed a food labeling law that requires all food labels to identify wheat and other commonly known allergens. The government is finalizing The Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act (FALCPA) and will set the rules for products with the label "gluten-free" on the package.

Even with vitamins and supplements you have to be careful and you should read on their labels if they are gluten-free. Don't look at your new diet with despair; embrace it as your new hobby and a way to heal your intestines as long as you eat a proper diet. By staying with this new way of eating, you can heal your intestines and rid yourself of the terrible feelings and damage that celiac disease can cause and regain your health.

Peanut butter and jelly sandwich
Peanut butter and jelly sandwich

Kids and Celiac Disease

Many kids are also diagnosed with celiac disease and for them it is hard to understand why they cannot eat cake and cookies like everyone else. If your child has celiac disease that means everyone in the family has to change the way they eat. It is not only changing their diet, but also explaining why they cannot eat cake, cookies and donuts.

The book, The GF Kid: A Celiac Disease Survival Guide is great to teach kids not only about the foods they have to avoid, but the reasons why. If a child understands why they cannot eat cookies, they are more likely to avoid foods that will make them sick.

Gluten Intolerance

Being gluten intolerant is not the same as having celiac disease. It seems the healthy thing today, is to avoid any food with gluten. Is this a fad or is there really something to eating a gluten free diet.

The book, Wheat Belly has many people wondering if wheat or all gluten foods is one of the main causes of obesity, type II diabetes, skin disorders and many other health problems. The author makes a good case and has plenty of antidotal evidence since he is a doctor that has seen many patients regain their health when they went on a gluten free diet.

Is there something about gluten that causes us to overeat? It sounds possible and if so, could be a reason that obesity continues to increase. There is of course a major difference between junk carbs like white processed flour and whole wheat products, but could all types of wheat be bad for us? Carbohydrates are necessary for good healthy, but there are other carbs besides wheat or gluten.

Wheat
Wheat

Has Wheat Changed?

We have always believed that whole wheat bread was healthy, and a great source of nutrients and fiber. Wheat and bread have been the source of life since biblical times. But when you start to listen to people that agree with Paleo type diets or diets that cavemen ate, wheat is an unhealthy food.

Other than the caveman diet, most have always believed whole wheat bread was very healthy. There is evidence that more people today have been diagnosed with celiac disease and there are probably many more people with gluten intolerance.

As William Davis, the author of Wheat Belly points out in his book, today’s wheat is not the same wheat that our parents or grandparents ate. Scientists have changed wheat dramatically in the past 50 years. Most of us think of wheat growing in tall golden waves when in reality, wheat today is dwarf wheat that only grows to about 18 inches.

Could the change in wheat have something to do with the dramatic increase in health problems today and with the number of people being diagnosed with celiac disease?

Eating a Gluten Free Diet

Whether you have celiac disease, gluten intolerance or just want to try a gluten free diet, you will have to avoid all foods that contain gluten, which is easier said than done. Thankfully today, foods are labeled gluten free and there are many gluten free foods sold at regular grocery stores.

Wheat and gluten are all around us, in almost every meal and food. Cooking your own meals is the best way to eat healthy and gluten free. Learning how to substitute different foods for gluten containing foods is of course the first step. The following books are great for following a gluten free diet.

There are many gluten free foods that are just as good as wheat products. Do you like spaghetti dinners; there are several alternatives like pasta made from quinoa, rice and other products that taste ever bit as good. Not to mention, quinoa is one of the healthiest foods you can eat.

Today, there are more and more gluten free foods for you to choose from, and don't be afraid to cook for yourself. With the help of books like the Gluten Free Bible, you will learn how to eat a healthy, fulfilling and gluten free diet.

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    • jasonlovesgreen profile image

      jasonlovesgreen 3 years ago

      Diet is so important! My wife has Crohn's and we had to rethink how we eat. Thanks for your lens.

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      Doc_Holliday 3 years ago

      It seems that there are many people who are undiagnosed celiacs because it is so difficult to diagnose.

    • Sam Montana profile image
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      Sam Montana 3 years ago

      @Doc_Holliday: Thank you for your comment Doc. It is still hard to diagnose because there are so many different ailments that cause digestive problems. I recently read at the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness that 83% of the people with celiac disease were undiagnosed or misdiagnosed with other conditions.

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