Living with Celiac Disease – Dietary Changes You Must Make
While celiac disease is not immediately life-threatening, it does require strict diet supervision in order to maintain a normal lifestyle. A hereditary autoimmune condition, it causes serious injuries to the small intestine, as soon as gluten, or food that contains gluten, is eaten. Moreover, there is no treatment for the condition, aside from a strict, gluten-free life-long diet. While avoiding gluten and gluten-related products is the obvious choice, it might not be that simple.
Changes in lifestyle
While it is true that you should avoid, at all costs, foods that contain even the smallest amount of gluten, the strict diet requires an open-minded approach.
- Take your vitamins. Since your small intestine won’t be able to absorb nutrients and vitamins as it should, you have to make sure your vitamin and nutrient levels don’t diminish. With those who suffer from celiac disease, lack of vitamin B12, iron, magnesium, zinc, and calcium is common, so you should ask your medic for supplement prescriptions.
- Labels. You have to avoid barley, rye, and wheat, so you should pay close attention to the product labels. Read all the ingredients carefully, and make sure the ‘gluten-free’ mark is written on a product before you buy it. ‘Gluten’ might not be exactly stated on the label, but you should refrain from eating emmer, Kamut, wheat starch, as well as emulsifiers, glycerides, and dextrin – just to name a few.
- Ration. Sure, gluten-free foods are safe for consumption, but you shouldn’t overeat, as they are not calorie-free, as well.
- Ask away. Whenever you visit restaurants, ask the servers, or chefs, how the food is prepared, and what it contains. You could find out if there is a gluten-free menu available as well.
What to Avoid
While these foods might not contain gluten in their composition and preparation method, it is safer to keep an eye on them and ask about how they were produced.
- French fries
- Soy sauces
- Rice mixtures
- Meat substitutes
- Some beverages – beer and malt-made ones
- Canned or processed foods
What to Eat
You don’t have to despair yet, as there are plenty of foods that are gluten-free.
- Proteins from animals – beef, chicken, dairy products, seafood, and turkey. They don’t contain gluten and will provide you with plenty of nutritious elements. Plus, you can switch them, to bring diversity into your menu.
- Spices and herbs – both fresh and dried types are natural and have no trace of gluten in them, so, feel free to use them to your heart’s content. Moreover, infusing herbs in a stainless steel tea kettle will provide you with a delicious tea to serve your friends or indulge with when you want to relax a bit and benefit from the overwhelming health boost provided by the hot brew.
- Fruits and vegetables – you don’t have to compromise with them. Eat as many as you like, in any form or style.
- Seeds and nuts – almonds, cashew, chia, pecans, and walnuts (to name some of them) are completely gluten-free, so you can easily mix them in your diet to get the necessary amount of vitamins and minerals.
- Oils and fats – found in fruits, like avocado, butter, or olives, they can be easily used in preparing your food. Moreover, you can use coconut oil as well as other types of solid fats in order to spice your menu up.
Since it is hereditary, you can easily know if you’re prone to get diagnosed with celiac disease or not. However, there are some cases in which you have no idea if there was someone in your family afflicted by it. In this case, there are several symptoms from which you might get an idea if you’re suffering from the disease or not.
Other conditions that are common in celiac disease patients are anemia, autoimmune thyroid disease, dermatitis, gluten ataxia, lymphocytic colitis, peripheral neuropathy and, sometimes, even unexplained infertility.
If you’re still not entirely sure, it’s best to consult a specialist, as an untreated or undiagnosed celiac disease might lead, in the long run, to:
- Anemia and iron deficiency
- Infertility or miscarriage
- Early osteoporosis
- Lactose intolerance
- Bladder malfunction
- Nervous system disorders, especially central and peripheral areas
- Insufficiencies in minerals and vitamins
- More serious neurological problems like seizures, dementia, ataxia, migraines, neuropathy
All in all, while it isn’t easy to suffer from celiac disease, it is better to know about it beforehand, than leaving it untreated. Moreover, you have to pay close attention to the product labels before you decide to buy a product, as well as make sure to keep as far away as possible from any gluten and gluten-related foods.