The month of May is Celiac Awareness Month. According to CeliacCentral.org, 1 in 133 Americans have Celiac disease, many of whom go undiagnosed. It is genetic, and it can start at any age.
A recent study found that it can take 6-10 years on average to be properly diagnosed as many don’t even know they have it and symptoms vary widely. While it’s common to experience digestive issues, other symptoms can include anything from skin rashes and mouth sores to joint pain and migraines—all caused by eating gluten.
More importantly, what is gluten? According to Celiac.org, Gluten is a general name for the proteins found in wheat (durum, emmer, spelt, farina, farro, KAMUT® khorasan wheat and einkorn), rye, barley and triticale. Gluten helps foods maintain their shape, acting as a glue that holds food together. Gluten can be found in many types of foods, even ones that would not be expected.
Celiac is an autoimmune disease —meaning it makes the immune system turn on itself—damaging the villi or tiny hair-like structures in the small intestine where nutrients are absorbed. At this time, there is no real cure for Celiac Disease. The only solution is to switch to a gluten-free diet. Once committed to a gluten-free diet, villi heal within 6 months.
Going gluten-free can be tricky. Some foods to avoid are obvious – anything made with wheat, barley, or rye – but the scary thing is gluten can be in places you least expect: licorice, bottled salad dressings, flavorings and seasoning mixes. Another difficulty is gluten can be “hidden,” in other words, used in an ingredient or while processing another ingredient, that does not appear on the label as recognizable gluten.
Don’t confuse gluten-sensitivity with Celiac. Gluten-sensitivity is a disruption in digestion, which eases when gluten is taken out of the diet. There is no real way to diagnose gluten-sensitivity right now, however, if you suspect you may be gluten-sensitive simply remove gluten from your diet and monitor the effects. Though going gluten-free has become a bit of a trend, there is an upside. For those with Celiac, it’s now become easier to find legitimate gluten-free foods and gluten-free menu options at restaurants.
Thanks to the demand, new products are coming out all the time – banana flour, chickpea pasta, and cauliflower pizza crust, just to name a few. And scientists are on the lookout for any potential treatments, even hook worms… well, not yet. But, a small study in Australia found that had ingesting hookworms could help, as subjects were gradually able to eat the equivalent of a medium-sized bowl of spaghetti without any usual side effects. Researchers are now examining what exactly about the hookworm helps process gluten with the hopes of one day developing treatments that don’t require they live inside your stomach.
Now that both the food industry and the medical world are paying attention, it’s hopeful that those with Celiac Disease and gluten-sensitivity will have more options for their diet like Perfect Bar and in turn, a happy and healthy life.