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Healthy gluten-free diet options, challenges unwrapped PDF Print E-mail
Written by Joy Akey   

Colorado State University Extension provides reliable, research-based information, research capabilities and resources to Coloradans from all walks of life. Extension is dedicated to serving current and future needs by providing educational information and programs that safeguard health, increase livelihood and enhance well-being.

People hear a lot about gluten-free diets. There are a number of reasons for pursuing this special diet, and a number of reasons to be aware of the challenges associated with it.

Gluten is a general term for certain types of protein found in grains. It provides an elastic and glue-like property that holds flour products together and provides a chewy texture. People may be on a gluten-free diet for a wheat allergy, gluten sensitivity or Celiac disease. Sometimes these are confused with each other, but they are very different.

A wheat allergy creates an allergy-causing antibody to proteins found in wheat. It is a common food allergy but often confused with celiac or a non-celiac gluten sensitivity.

Gluten sensitivity is not an allergic reaction or an autoimmune response to gluten, but it causes gastrointestinal symptoms similar to Celiac disease. It is diagnosed more by a process of elimination than by a specific test. If a person tests negative for Celiac disease and wheat allergy, they may be put on a gluten-free diet. If symptoms improve, the person may be gluten sensitive.

Celiac disease is a genetic autoimmune disorder that affects one in every 133 people. About 95 percent of people who have Celiac are undiagnosed or misdiagnosed. An abnormal reaction in the small intestine occurs when people with Celiac eat the gluten protein in wheat. Gluten damages the villi of the intestine, which decreases the ability to absorb nutrients including proteins, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins and minerals.

There are over 300 symptoms of Celiac disease that vary among people. The most common in adults is iron deficiency anemia that does not improve with iron therapy. Other common symptoms include diarrhea, abdominal pain, irritability or depression. Some people have no symptoms at all, or it may take years for the symptoms to appear.


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Holyoke Enterprise Aug. 21, 2014