Diet and Nutrition

The Advantages of a Gluten-Free Diet. Yes, Really!

The Advantages of a Gluten-Free Diet. Yes, Really!

Celiac disease is an autoimmune condition triggered by the consumption of gluten, which is present in wheat, barley, rye, and other similar products. It is characterized by several factors, including the presence of gluten-related clinical manifestations, as well as the existence of gluten-specific antibodies in the person’s bloodstream.

According to the European Society of Pediatric Gastroenterology, Hepatology, and Nutrition, one important distinction of celiac disease is enteropathy, where it progressively destroys the villi in the small intestine over time if left untreated. In European countries, the prevalence of celiac disease is around 1 percent, and it is much more frequent in women, with a ratio of 2 to 1.

As far as symptoms go, each case of celiac disease is somewhat unique, manifesting in different ways in every person. In some rare occasions, the disease may be asymptomatic, or devoid of most symptoms, until certain triggers have been met. However, the symptoms in which most cases usually coincide often revolve around sensations of bloating, chronic diarrhea or constipation in some cases, nausea, greasy and yellowish fecal discharge, stomach cramps, and vomiting. The problem with celiac disease is that, due to the intestine’s diminished ability to absorb nutrients, it can cause serious consequences, especially in growing children. Those who are diagnosed with the early-onset celiac disease will usually experience several symptoms, including damage to their dental enamel, delayed puberty, stunted growth in infants, mood swings or irritability, stunted growth, and weight loss.

The only known way to combat celiac disease is by taking on a diet that restricts all consumption of gluten. This may come as a shock to many individuals, considering that gluten is present in common foods such as bread, crackers, pasta, cereal, cookies, cakes, gravies, or other foods that are prepared with flours. Considering that these ingredients are common in the diet of many Americans, switching to an eating plan devoid of gluten can be quite challenging. However, not all is bad when it comes to a gluten-free diet, as avoiding this protein can provide lots of benefits, even in those who are suffering from celiac disease.

Regrettably, the cause of celiac disease is still a mystery that eludes even the most avid researchers. As of today, it is believed that this condition is caused by a genetic susceptibility to it, which is triggered at some point in the person’s life due to their diet, or other lifestyle habits. The aforementioned genetic susceptibility is, according to researchers, fairly common; approximately one-third of the population have them. In order to trigger the symptoms, however, the person has to consume gluten.

It’s worth noting that, while most individuals might have an adverse reaction to gluten (stomach cramps, gas, bloating), not everyone will fulfill the conditions to be diagnosed with celiac disease. In this regard, celiac disease is similar to lactose intolerance or other food allergies. However, unlike said allergies, celiac disease can often spread to affect structures other than the intestines where they originate, much like a systemic disorder.