Gluten-free diet is the key to controlling celiac disease

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  by Susan Hanna 

 Almonte General Hospital
  Celiac disease is a genetically based medical condition in which gluten damages the small intestine of those people suffering from the disease. In addition to unpleasant symptoms, this results in an inability of the body to absorb essential nutrients if left untreated.

 There is no cure for celiac disease, but it can be controlled by adhering to a gluten-free diet. Almonte General Hospital/Fairview Manor Dietitian Janet Hogan talks about celiac disease.

What are the symptoms? “The symptoms of celiac disease vary from person to person,” says Ms. Hogan. “They can include diarrhea, constipation, stomach pain, weight loss, fatigue, low iron levels in the blood and a skin rash called dermatitis herpetiformis.”

How is it diagnosed? “If you suspect you have celiac disease, speak to your doctor, who will send you to a gastroenterologist,” says Ms. Hogan. “The gastroenterologist will use an endoscope to take a biopsy of the small intestine to confirm the diagnosis.” Some people can be sensitive to gluten without having celiac disease. Their symptoms may also be alleviated by adhering to a gluten-free diet.

What foods contain gluten? “Gluten is a protein found in many grains such as wheat, rye, barley, oats, triticale kamut and spelt,” explains Ms. Hogan. “It can also be found in goods containing certain kinds of hydrolyzed protein and modified starch.”

What foods are gluten-free? Fruit, vegetables, meat, poultry, seafood, dairy, eggs and oils are all naturally gluten-free. So are legumes, rice, potatoes, corn and sweeteners like honey and sugar. “You can replace foods made with wheat and other products containing gluten with foods made with rice, corn, potato or soya flour or a combination of these.”

How do you avoid foods with gluten? “You need to know what foods contain gluten and read food labels to make sure every ingredient is gluten-free,” advises Ms. Hogan. “For example, a cereal made with rice might at first appear to be gluten-free, but, upon closer examination of the ingredients, it may contain malt or barley malt flavouring, which contain gluten. Look for foods labeled gluten-free, which are becoming more common.”

For more information about celiac disease, visit