Celiac disease is a chronic condition caused in the digestive tract, it has an immunological origin characterized by a permanent intolerance to a protein called gluten which is present in cereals (wheat, oats, barley or rye). When the patient ingests foods containing gluten, the lining of the small intestine is injured, which reduces their ability to absorb nutrients. People affected by this disorder who are not treated tend to suffer from malnutrition and various associated diseases, but not all people with this disease display the same symptoms and therefore can go unnoticed for a long time.
Any food ingested undergoes a process of digestion that serves to degrade food into smaller particles, so that they can then be absorbed. In order to absorb these particles, villi is required, which are like very small roots that hang inside the small intestine. When the length of this villi is reduced, the absorption is shortened, resulting in poor nutrition. In celiac disease there is a reduction in the size of the intestinal villi as a result of gluten intolerance.
Celiac disease is becoming more common, for every 250 people born there is 1 people that suffers from it, although experts warn that this condition is misdiagnosed, and less than a quarter of celiac people know they have the disease. It can affect children and adults equally, although sometimes the clinical manifestations may be different at one stage than at another. People with Down syndrome are 100 times more likely to have gluten intolerance than the rest of the population. Likewise, the probability of a celiac patient having first-degree relatives with the same problem is 5-15%. Due to its immunological nature, it is usually associated with other disorders such as autoimmune thyroiditis, diabetes mellitus or immunodeficiency.
This condition has gained a lot of popularity lately, mostly because people misunderstand gluten-free food for healthy options they can add to their dietary habits even though they do not suffer from it. Even McDonald’s launched some gluten-free options in their menu in many different countries.
Complexity Behind Diagnosis
Diagnosing this disease can be a difficult task because the symptoms it produces are similar to the ones caused by other diseases. Patients with celiac disease have high levels of gluten antibodies (anti-gliadin, anti-endomysium, anti-reticulin and anti-transglutaminase antibodies). If the levels of these antibodies in the blood are high, the way to confirm the disease is to study a biopsy of the mucosa of the small intestine.
In order to confirm someone suffers from celiac disease, it is required to visit the doctor several times.
Treatment and Advice for People with Celiac Disease
Right now there is no curative treatment for celiac disease. However, avoiding the consumption of gluten makes the symptoms disappear, but affected people can have symptoms reappearing if they consume food with gluten.
The only treatment for Celiac Disease so far is a life-long gluten-free diet. Though it has no nutritional value, gluten is responsible for the mass of flour, giving a spongy texture to breads and other baked goods.
Patients, however, should not start a gluten-free diet until getting a proper diagnosis. This could make it difficult to diagnose the disease. The ingestion of small amounts of gluten or traces can cause lesion of the intestinal villi, and no clinical symptoms are necessary.
These are some tips for those with celiac disease:
- One should consume natural products because processed products have a greater risk of being contaminated with gluten.
- One should not consume products in bulk because some kind of cross-contamination could also happen.
- Don't worry, there are definitely products with either modified wheat and starch containing less than 10 ppm gluten. These are suitable for celiac disease patients.
- Be cautious with flours that aren't approved, as they may be contaminated when processed in mills.
A Gluten-Free Bank to Help People in Need
Food banks have been a solution established by governments around the world to help people who require help or are not able to buy food. However, in order to allow better storage and effectiveness in the process, most food in food banks is non-perishable. There is a major problem for people that need food from a food bank but suffer from celiac disease since most non-perishable contain conservatives and other additional ingredients with a lot of gluten.
Nevertheless, there is always an option: right now there is one gluten-free food bank helping people suffering from celiac disease that are in need. It is the only gluten-free food bank operating in the country and it is located in Medfield.
This bank offers assistance to all families where celiac disease can trigger the appearance of difficult illnesses. Gluten-free food bank comes as a helping option for people suffering from celiac disease. Taking into account how expensive gluten-free foods are (people that buy gluten-free products spend at least 1,000$ more in food per year) this food bank is an excellent option. It is also the only way some parents can get gluten-free food for children who need it.
The importance of a gluten-free food bank is critical since there are people with celiac disease who may suffer from severe health problems if they consume gluten in a daily basis, sending them to the emergency room
The bank is an initiative started by Project Just Because in Hopkinton, it has many shelves stocked with gluten-free foods to help people that need them. The founder of Project Just Because, Cherylann Lambert, stated that they have seen mothers come to tears when receiving gluten-free food.
The National Celiac Association has reported that the bank has delivered at least 3000 pounds of food. For all people in need in Massachusetts looking for gluten-free food. Having access to this type of food is essential for people suffering from celiac disease and it is important some kind of assistance for people with lower amounts of income since it is quite expensive.
Project Just Because have been running fundraising operations in Hopkinton in order to keep shelves full of gluten-free foods.