Celiac disease, also known as non-tropical sprue or gluten-sensitive enteropathy, was first described in 1888. It is estimated 1% of the population in the USA is affected by this disorder, and more than 80% have not been officially diagnosed. It’s an autoimmune disease triggered by the consumption of gluten.
What’s gluten? Gluten is an insoluble protein found in barley, rye and wheat. It’s made up of two elements Gliadin and glutenin. Gluten from Latin meaning “glue” or “sticky substance, is responsible for the elasticity of dough and chewiness of food made from wheat flour like bread and pasta.
In celiac disease, an inherited disease, Gluten activates our immune system to attack our small intestine and damage the cells responsible for the absorption process. First degree relatives of patients with celiac disease have 10-15 % chance of developing the disease.
Classic symptoms of celiac disease include diarrhea, weight loss, and iron or vitamin deficiencies. However, most patients have vague symptoms, non-gastrointestinal manifestations, or minor complaints like fatigue, or are asymptomatic.
Diagnosis usually involves a blood test followed by an endoscopy to take biopsies of the small bowel to confirm the diagnosis.
The only treatment for now is to avoid gluten. Some researchers are looking at chemicals which could target enzymes responsible for the disease.
A person on a gluten free diet should avoid all foods made of wheat, rye, bran, enriched flour, bulgur or barley, including cereals, breads, pasta, crackers, cakes and cookies. Also, beer and other grain-based alcohol. Many processed foods contain gluten like canned soups, salad dressing, seasonings, ice cream, candy bars, processed meats or sausages, and soy sauce. Also, some prescriptions or over the counter medications like vitamins or supplements, and cosmetics products contain gluten. Read labels carefully.
Although oats have no gluten, they may be easily contaminated with gluten due to being grown in fields near gluten containing crops or processed in plants also used for foods containing gluten, or due to a protein in oats called Avenin, which acts like gluten in wheat. Therefore, it’s always better to try small amounts and monitor symptoms before including oats in your diet.

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