May is Celiac Awareness Month, a time dedicated to shedding light on celiac disease and gluten intolerance, conditions that affect millions of individuals worldwide. In this week’s blog post, we will explore the intricacies of celiac disease, provide insights into identifying symptoms, discuss the importance of testing, and introduce alternatives to maintaining a gluten-free lifestyle. Whether you or a loved one has celiac disease or gluten intolerance, this blog aims to empower you with knowledge and resources to live a healthier, happier life.
Celiac disease, also known as celiac sprue or gluten-sensitive enteropathy, is an autoimmune disorder. It occurs when gluten, a protein found in wheat, barley, and rye, is ingested, triggering an immune response. This immune response causes inflammation and damage to the lining of the small intestine. Celiac disease has a strong genetic component, meaning that individuals with certain genetic markers are more susceptible to developing the disease. However, not everyone who carries the genetic predisposition will develop celiac disease. The presence of specific human leukocyte antigen (HLA) genes, particularly HLA-DQ2 and HLA-DQ8, is strongly associated with celiac disease. (Caio et al., 2019)
Gluten intolerance, also known as non-celiac gluten sensitivity (NCGS), is a less severe condition that shares similar symptoms but does not involve autoimmune reactions. The precise mechanisms underlying NCGS or the genetic disposition are not yet fully understood. It is believed that various factors, including components of gluten, certain carbohydrates, and gut microbiota, may contribute to the development of symptoms in susceptible individuals. (Leonard et al., 2017)
Symptoms (Leonard et al., 2017)
Celiac disease can manifest with a wide range of symptoms, including abdominal pain, diarrhea, bloating, weight loss, fatigue, anemia, skin rash, and nutrient deficiencies. However, some individuals may experience minimal or no symptoms, which can make diagnosis challenging.
Those with a gluten intolerance have similar gastrointestinal symptoms of abdominal pain, bloating, diarrhea, and constipation. One may also experience non-gastrointestinal symptoms like fatigue, headaches, and joint pain. The symptoms of gluten intolerance are typically less severe than those of celiac disease and do not result in the same intestinal damage or long-term complications.
Seeking Diagnosis (NIDDK, 2020)
Before meeting with a medical professional, it is recommended to keep a symptoms diary. The symptoms diary helps keep track of foods that are triggering and symptoms experienced throughout the day. Having the symptoms diary will help your medical professional in the diagnostic process.
The diagnosis process for celiac disease is much more vigorous than for NCGS. The diagnosis can be made through a combination of testing. Your medical professional will determine the series of testing for confirmation, as not all are necessary:
- Blood tests - The blood tests check for certain antibodies that are associated with celiac disease. The primary blood test used is the tissue transglutaminase antibody (tTG-IgA) test. Elevated levels of these antibodies can indicate an immune response to gluten. It's important to continue consuming gluten-containing foods before the blood test, as a gluten-free diet can lead to false-negative results.
- Genetic testing: Genetic testing can be used to detect the presence of human leukocyte antigen (HLA) genes, HLA-DQ2 and HLA-DQ8. However, it's worth noting that not everyone with these genes develops celiac disease, and their absence does not rule out the condition.
- Intestinal biopsy: If blood tests suggest the possibility of celiac disease, an intestinal biopsy may be recommended to confirm the diagnosis. This procedure involves taking small samples (biopsies) of the lining of the small intestine, typically through an endoscopy. The samples are examined for characteristic changes associated with celiac disease, such as damage to the villi (small finger-like projections) in the small intestine.
Currently, there is no form of diagnostic testing for a gluten intolerance. This could be challenging and frustrating, which is why it is important to work closely with your healthcare professional to determine the best course of action. Many medical professionals will recommend the elimination diet to determine a diagnosis. The elimination diet involves removing all sources of gluten from your diet for a specific period, typically several weeks to a few months. This involves avoiding foods that contain wheat, barley, rye, and possibly oats. During this time, you are to carefully monitor your symptoms to see if they improve. (Catassi et al., 2015)
Confirmed Diagnosis - Now What?
The first and most crucial step is to start adhering to a strict gluten-free diet. This could be done with the help of a registered dietitian to ensure a well-balanced gluten-free diet that adheres to all nutritional requirements. The complete lifestyle change can be difficult and even disheartening. Luckily, there are many food alternatives that make the journey of living with celiac disease or a gluten intolerance much easier. Some alternative grains and starches include:
- Gluten-free oats
Any of these alternatives can be used to make some of our favorite gluten-containing dishes like pasta, cake, bread, cereal, and much more. Millions around the world are still trying to maneuver life with celiac disease or a gluten intolerance, but the numerous manipulations of these alternatives have made it possible to still indulge in the foods we loved to crave.
Here at inBite, we have made it our life’s mission to provide various gluten-free baked goods that are crafted to meet the highest standards of taste and quality so that you’ll never miss gluten again! Our carefully selected ingredients are GFCO certified, allowing you to indulge in your favorite foods without worrying about the potential discomfort or adverse effects. With our products, you can enjoy a wide range of delectable options like mouthwatering muffins, hearty bread alternatives, plant-based protein cookies, and more! Trust inBite to deliver gluten-free delights that not only nourish your body but also delight your taste buds, ensuring that you never have to compromise on flavor or your dietary needs again.
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Celiac Awareness Month serves as a reminder of the importance of understanding celiac disease and gluten intolerance. These conditions can significantly impact the lives of individuals who are affected, but with knowledge and proper diagnosis, it is possible to manage them effectively. Identifying symptoms and seeking a diagnosis are crucial steps in the process, and working closely with healthcare professionals can provide the guidance needed. While a confirmed diagnosis may bring about lifestyle changes, such as adhering to a gluten-free diet, it is heartening to know that there are numerous alternatives available that allow individuals to continue enjoying their favorite foods. We at inBite will always be committed to providing those alternatives that are high-quality, meet dietary needs, and also deliver exceptional taste.
By staying informed, connecting with support networks, and exploring the resources available, individuals with celiac disease or gluten intolerance can lead healthier and happier lives. Remember, with the right tools and support, you can embrace a gluten-free lifestyle without compromising on flavor or satisfaction.
- Caio G, Volta U, Sapone A, Leffler DA, De Giorgio R, Catassi C, Fasano A. Celiac disease: a comprehensive current review. BMC Med. 2019 Jul 23;17(1):142. doi: 10.1186/s12916-019-1380-z. PMID: 31331324; PMCID: PMC6647104. (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6647104/)
- Leonard MM, Sapone A, Catassi C, Fasano A. Celiac Disease and Nonceliac Gluten Sensitivity: A Review. JAMA. 2017 Aug 15;318(7):647-656. doi: 10.1001/jama.2017.9730. PMID: 28810029. (https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28810029/)
- National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK). (2020). Celiac Disease. Retrieved from https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/digestive-diseases/celiac-disease/diagnosis
- Catassi, C., Elli, L., Bonaz, B., Bouma, G., Carroccio, A., Castillejo, G., ... & Lundin, K. E. (2015). Diagnosis of non-celiac gluten sensitivity (NCGS): the Salerno experts' criteria. Nutrients, 7(6), 4966-4977. doi: 10.3390/nu7064966