Celiac disease is caused by sensitivity to wheat gluten. The inflammatory reaction in the mucosa of the small intestines produces a profuse secretion of mucus which interferes in the absorption of all nutrients and especially of fat often leading to malnutrition — even if you are eating healthy meals
If you have celiac disease, you can't eat foods made from some of these grains (which have gluten) without damaging your small intestine.
Possible symptoms of celiac disease are weakness, anaemia, bone pain, weight loss, bloating and diarrhoea or bulky stools which are a result of not getting nutrition from the foods you eat.
In addition celiac disease often leads to lactose intolerance.
But sometimes celiac disease has no symptoms at all, just the harmful changes in your small intestine.
Children who have untreated celiac disease are often small for their age but normal sized adults can develop it after severe stress, a viral infection or pregnancy. Studies have not been able to prove that it is present since birth and then triggered, or if you can develop it later in life.
For some reason, breast fed children seem to have some protection against developing this disease at a young age.
If you are diagnosed with celiac disease, you will have to follow a strict, gluten free diet for the rest of your life.
People often have difficulty absorbing fat soluble vitamins like A, D and K and can be deficient in these and other nutrients. But once you cut all gluten foods out of your diet, your small intestine should begin to heal and food can again be your ally instead of your enemy.
Nutrition for a celiac
As already discussed that a celiac is prone to get malnourished due to poor absorption of nutrients from the diet despite eating a healthy meal, it is of utmost importance for a celiac patient to select and choose the foods carefully and make extra efforts to include all the important food groups on a daily basis. In case of severe malnutrition, consult your doctor for a multivitamin supplement.
Gluten in foods
Pretzels, grains, bread, cereals, pasta, barley, rye, oats, baked goods, pizza, sauces, dressings, canned products, processed and hard cheeses, semolina, French fries, tomato juice, cocktails.
Gluten free flours
You will have to completely avoid all breads and cereals containing wheat, rye, oats, barley, bran, graham, wheat germ, bulgur, buckwheat, millet, triticale, amaranth, quinoa, etc.
Gluten free foods
Tapioca, corn, rice (prefer brown rice), puffed rice, rice flakes, soya, gluten free pasta, rice noodles, corn tortillas and tacos, rice crackers and cakes, buckwheat cereal, gluten free ice creams.
A word of caution
You will have to be a food detective to avoid all sources of gluten in your diet. For example, some herbal teas and non dairy creamers contain gluten as does tuna in vegetable broth and any hydrolysed vegetable protein. Avoid creamed vegetables, raisins, dried dates that have been dusted with flour, most canned soups and sauces. Some types of cheeses like blue, Roquefort, etc., are hidden sources of gluten.
Monika Seth/Nutritionist and diet consultant specialising in weight loss at Al Raffah Hospital