Individuals with celiac disease can’t tolerate specific proteins, collectively called “gluten” that are found in the grains, wheat, barley, rye, and triticale (a cross between wheat and rye). When these individuals consume gluten, it triggers an inflammatory response in their bodies that damages the lining of the small intestine and interferes with the digestion and absorption of the nutrients in food. This leads to numerous vitamin, minerals, and other nutrient deficiencies, as well as their corresponding short-term health problems, such as depression, anemia, abdominal pain, irritability, nausea, weight loss, diarrhea, and fatigue – to name a few. Over the long-term, complications such as osteoporosis, infertility, liver diseases, and intestinal cancers can occur.
Since there isn’t any cure for celiac disease, the only treatment is a lifetime of adhering to a gluten-free diet. Unfortunately, even traces of gluten in the diet can cause problems. Gluten can also be added to foods, such as soup, cold cuts, seasoned frozen vegetables, and even products such as vitamins and lipstick. Consequently, reading ingredients labels when shopping and asking your food server when dining out are mandatory when trying to avoid gluten.