Today, September 13 is National Celiac Awareness Day. If you're like me, you've probably seen an increase in gluten-free or grain-free food over the past few years. What's it all about? It's all because of Celiac disease.
Celiac disease, an ailment that was once little-known and misunderstood, is now one of the most commonly talked-about diseases in existence today. In fact, it is estimated that 1 in 133 Americans have celiac disease and an estimated 2 million people remain unaware that they are affected by it.
However, many people still do not understand the illness fully and this can make life very difficult for those who have it. Celiac disease relates to gluten, a protein compound found in most grains, breads, and cereals. Contrary to popular belief, celiac disease is not an allergy to wheat but a genetic autoimmune disorder that causes the body to attack itself when gluten is ingested. Chicago Healers Practitioner Dr. Ian Wahl, DAc, LAc, says celiac disease is difficult to diagnose without an accurate blood test and many people are misdiagnosed because it presents as such a wide range of seemingly common symptoms, which include:
Bloating after gluten ingestion
Chronic weight loss
Although there is no cure for celiac disease, sticking to a gluten-free diet will make life much better for those diagnosed. Most supermarkets carry gluten-free products as do specialty stores, online stores and most restaurants. It may seem like a difficult life change because many foodstuffs contain gluten, but once one discovers which foods contain gluten and how to cook gluten-free, their mind (and stomach!) will be at ease. Below are additional tips for going gluten-free:
When baking, there are great substitutes for wheat flour now available. They contain a combination of rice flour, tapioca starch and potato starch, which can be substituted 1:1 for wheat flour in many recipes. These ready-made, all-purpose, gluten-free flour products are available at many grocery and specialty stores, as well as on-line.
In order to accommodate those living with celiac disease, many restaurants now offer gluten-free menu options. However, when eating out, always inform the server that you are on a gluten-free diet when once seated. Ask to speak to the manager and go over menu choices and preparation before ordering. The manager will alert the kitchen staff and chef to insure that your food is prepared safely.
When traveling, staying in a residence-type hotel with a kitchenette makes it easier to follow a gluten-free diet.
Parties can be managed quite well by calling ahead and speaking with the host or hostess. This will enable you to determine the planned menu and bring a dish that is gluten-free.
Find a local celiac support group to create a network in your area of people dealing with the same condition.
Although the internet is filled with misinformation, the following websites are accurate and provide a tremendous amount of information on how to live a gluten free life: