Health and Mind: Celiac Disease Awareness Day is September 13

Published 3:00 pm Tuesday, September 13, 2022

By Amy Williams

MS, RD, LD

Celiac Disease Awareness Day is September 13th. Celiac disease is known as an abnormal immune system response that damages the intestines. Symptoms can vary widely from going unnoticed to impact daily life. Such symptoms include gas, abdominal swelling, bloating, abnormal stools and diarrhea, unwanted weight loss, fatigue, weakness, and vomiting. These unwanted symptoms can be helped or alleviated by avoiding gluten foods. Gluten foods containing wheat, rye, and barley are proven to be the culprit in causing such stomach distress.

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As mentioned earlier, symptoms occur when someone with celiac disease eats gluten. Usually, villi line the large surface area of the small intestine. Villi are tiny fingerlike projections that help absorb vitamins, sugars, and other nutrients as food pass through the gastrointestinal tract. When someone with celiac disease eats gluten, those villi flatten out, not allowing absorption of essential nutrients. The intestinal lining becomes inflamed, and symptoms persist.

Individuals with celiac disease need to know what foods contain gluten. This also means scanning food items for hidden ingredients. For example, malt is associated with barley, so beer would not be a good choice to consume. Hydrolyzed vegetable protein, often used by vegetarians, is known to have wheat as an ingredient. When using frozen or canned foods, look for second ingredients that contain gluten, like breaded items from processed foods. For example, chicken patties, shrimp, and fish could cause stomach discomfort. Avoid other convenience-type foods, like pastas, crackers, cakes, pies, and cookies, unless otherwise noted as gluten-free. Custom cakes, pies, and cookies can be ordered if such foods are requested for special occasions. Some foods without gluten may still cause stomach discomfort. For example, oatmeal does not contain gluten; however, it may increase abdominal pain, bloating, and diarrhea due to increased fiber content. Each person is different, so some gas-producing foods may be tolerated when least expected. It may be a good idea to keep an ongoing list of foods that do cause stomach discomfort.

Gluten-free foods are popular alternatives for people with celiac disease. Gluten-free products are usually made with rice or potato flour. Instead of breads, rice and potatoes should be used as meal fillers. Use rice cakes, corn chips, or popcorn on the snack side. Use only corn or rice in cereals. Most major supermarket chains and specialty health food stores provide various gluten-free products.

Remember, the bottom line is to avoid wheat, rye, and barley. Be aware of hidden ingredients in processed foods, and look for gluten-free foods while grocery shopping. Always refer to medical experts for proper care and treatment.

Clark County Health Department provides programs for the entire family, including Freedom from Smoking, WIC, HANDS, family planning, well-child care/immunizations, and home health care. For more information on all of our service, please call 859/744-4482 or visit our website at www.clarkhealthdept.org. You can also “like” us on Facebook. Information contained was retrieved from https://nationaltoday.com/national-celiac-disease-awareness-day.