Special Diets

What is Celiac Disease?

Celiac disease (CD) is a genetic disorder. In people with CD, eating certain types of protein, called gluten, sets off an autoimmune response that causes damage to the small intestine. This, in turn, causes the small intestine to lose its ability to absorb the nutrients found in food, leading to malnutrition and a variety of other com-plications. Eventually, decreased absorption of nutrients can cause vitamin deficiencies that deprive your brain, peripheral nervous system, bones, liver and other organs of vital nourishment, which can lead to other illnesses. This is especially serious in children, who need proper nutrition to develop and grow. The offending protein, gluten, is found in wheat, barley, rye, and to a lesser extent, oats. No treatment can cure celiac disease. How-ever, you can effectively manage celiac disease through changing your diet.

What can I do?

Read food labels – Food labels are your lifeline to better health. Always read the food label before you purchase any product. Some foods that may appear acceptable, such as rice or corn cereals, may contain gluten. What’s more, a manufacturer may change a product’s ingredients at any time. In July 2004, the U.S. Congress passed a bill requiring products containing wheat, milk, soy, peanuts, tree nuts, fish, shellfish or eggs to say so in plain English on the product’s label. The bill also requires the FDA to develop a standard definition of “gluten- free” to make it easier for shoppers with celiac disease to identify products. Call the manufacturer. If you can’t tell by the label if a food contains gluten, don’t eat it until you check with the product’s manufacturer.

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