Gluten Free Diet
What is celiac disease?
Celiac disease (also known as celiac sprue, gluten intolerant enteropathy, or gluten sensitive enteropathy) is a condition in which there is a chronic reaction to substances known as glutens, found in some cereal grains. This reaction causes destruction of the villi in the small intestine, this results in the poor absorption of nutrients. The disease occurs in people who are genetically predisposed, i.e. they have a history of gluten intolerance in the family, usually after a trigger - such as shock, viral infection or prolonged stress. It can begin at any time from when grains are first ingested to later on in life.
Please note: Celiac sprue is a serious disease which can be life threatening if not diagnosed. It is very important that you see your doctor and get a professional diagnosis if you suspect you might be gluten intolerant.
What are the symptoms of celiac disease?
Celiac disease can be difficult to spot in some individuals as it is possible to show no outward signs of disease. There is quite a wide range of symptoms, which include: wind, bloating, diarrhoea. This is in addition to a wide variety of symptoms arising from poor absorption such as weight loss, chronic fatigue, weakness, bone problems. There may also be signs of a skin disease called dermatitis herpetiformis, in which severe rashes appear (often on the head, elbows, knees and buttocks). Reactions to ingestion of gluten can be immediate, or delayed for weeks or even months. There is no set pattern and celiacs may have all or none of the above symptoms.
How do I know if I am gluten intolerant?
Your doctor can do blood tests and/or biopsies to see if you are likely to be gluten intolerant or not. Some of these tests are done while you are still eating gluten.
I feel unwell after eating wheat, does this mean I'm gluten intolerant?
Maybe, or you could be sensitive to the wheat or the yeast. There are people who can eat rye but not wheat - they are not gluten sensitive as rye contains gluten. Sensitivities can occur when too much of one particular food is eaten - wheat (especially poor quality refined wheat) is commonly over emphasised in the modern diet. If you suspect that you are wheat sensitive rather than gluten intolerant, try experimenting with eating a wider variety of grains, in their unrefined form. Excessive intake of refined foods and milk products can "clog up" the intestines causing poor absorption of nutrients. This is not gluten intolerance. See your doctor if you are unsure. Additionally, having a food sensitivity test might help to clarify which foods are causing the problem.
Can a gluten free diet help with other specific health problems?
Some researchers are convinced that gluten intolerance, whether or not it results in full-blown celiac disease, can impact mental functioning in some individuals and cause or aggravate autism, Asperger's syndrome, attention deficit disorder (ADD), and schizophrenia. Some of the damage may be healed or partially repaired after time on a gluten-free diet (for example, problems with infertility may be reversed).
What foods do I avoid if I am diagnosed with celiac disease?
Celiacs should avoid all foods that contain wheat, rye, barley, oats and some other less well-known grains. There are no other cures except for this avoidance, although it might be wise to visit a nutritionist or naturopath to rebuild the body nutritionally. Durum wheat, bulgar wheat, triticale and semolina are types of wheat and should be avoided. Spelt and kamut are ancient types of wheat and should be avoided. There are many products derived from wheat, which may also cause problems such as wheat starch, hydrolysed wheat proteins. For this reason, it is wise to steer clear of pre-packaged foods that might contain these items. Also check that any medication you might be taking does not contain substance harmful to you.
"Grey Area" grains
Unfortunately there are some suspect grains, which may cause problems. These include: amaranth, buckwheat (or kasha), millet and quinoa. There is still debate as to whether or not these foods are safe for celiacs. Technically they should cause no problems, (buckwheat for example is more closely related to rhubarb than wheat) but some celiacs say that they do aggravate symptoms (this is perhaps due to cross contamination in the growing, milling or processing stages).
So what grains can I eat?
Rice and corn are safe for celiacs. The following can be milled into flour: chickpeas (garbanzos), lentils, peas and soya. Alternatively, we stock gluten free flours and gluten free breads, biscuits and cakes. Many celiacs invest in a breadmaker and regularly bake their own bread. You can also experiment with making your own pasta, although we sell rice and corn pastas. There are many gluten free recipe books available to give you inspiration and guidance.