|Gluten-free diet offers treatment for autoimmune
by Brittany Chin
Given all the gluten-free products on the grocery shelves, including on
popular items such as crackers, pasta, rice and bread, some people
assume the diet must be the new weight loss craze.
Gluten is the protein found in wheat, rye and barley. There are no
nutritional or weight loss benefits associated with a gluten-free diet
in a healthy person. In regards to a healthy lifestyle, eating whole
grains, such as whole wheat, rye and barley can benefit a person’s diet
greatly. However, according to the National Digestive Diseases
Information Clearinghouse (NDDIC), for those diagnosed with celiac
disease (CD), a gluten-free diet is the only method of treatment.
According to the Celiac Disease Foundation, one in every 133 people has
celiac disease and nearly 97 percent go undiagnosed. Celiac disease is
a hereditary and lifelong autoimmune disease that affects not only
adults, but children as well. For those diagnosed with celiac disease,
when gluten is consumed, the immune system responds by destroying the
villi in the small intestine resulting in malabsorption and
malnourishment. Symptoms of celiac disease are very similar to those of
Irritable Bowel Syndrome, including abdominal bloating and pain,
diarrhea, vomiting, constipation and weight loss. Long-term
complications, such as anemia, osteoporosis and cancer of the intestine
can result from untreated celiac disease as well (NDDIC).
So what does a gluten-free diet look like? Below are the
recommendations from the American Dietetic Association.
Gluten-free foods allowed include corn, buckwheat, soy, rice, potatoes
Foods with gluten to avoid include wheat (including all flours),
barley, rye, triticale (a cross between wheat and rye) and processed
foods that may contain wheat, barley or rye such as sauces, soups,
potato chips, gravy, some cold cuts and many more. Be sure to always
check the label on processed foods for gluten.
This list is just a sample. For information, consult a physician and/or
a dietitian who specializes in celiac disease.
A gluten-free diet not only may assist those with celiac disease, but
recent studies show that there may be a “brain-to-gut connection”
between autism and a gluten-free diet. According to the Annals of
Clinical Psychiatry in 2008, a gluten-free diet may help in decreasing
the amount of peptides that are thought to contribute to the origin of
autism and its behavioral symptoms. The effect of gluten-free diets on
autism is still inconclusive, and further studies are being conducted
on this topic. An autistic child’s pediatrician should be consulted
before making any dietary changes.
The National Foundation for Celiac Awareness indicates that it can take
up to 10 years to accurately be diagnosed with CD. For
information on CD and the gluten-free diet, visit the Celiac Disease
Foundation at http://www.celiac.org,
the NDDIC at http://digestive.niddik.nih.gov
and the American Dietetic Association at http://www.eatright.org.
Friday, Nov. 5, 2010