May is National Celiac Awareness Month, a great time to spread awareness about gluten-free eating.
What is Celiac Disease?
An estimated 1 in 133 Americans, or about 1% of the population, has celiac disease. And I’m not just talking about those who are choosing to avoid gluten because of dietary preferences. Celiac disease is actually a genetic autoimmune disease, and if left untreated, can have serious health consequences.
How Are Symptoms Triggered?
Symptoms of celiac disease are triggered by consuming gluten, a protein found in wheat, barley and rye. When people with the disease consume gluten, their immune system responds by damaging the villi of the small intestine. This hinders the body’s ability to absorb nutrients, which can lead to nutrient depletion.
What’s the Impact?
Celiac disease puts people at risk for all kinds of nasty stuff: anxiety, additional autoimmune diseases, osteoporosis, thyroid disease, intestinal damage and even certain cancers. The scary part? It’s estimated that 83% of the people with celiac disease in the U.S. are not diagnosed yet or are misdiagnosed.
How Hard Is It To Avoid Gluten?
For those few who are properly diagnosed, like my niece Jackie, the only thing they must do is avoid gluten. Easy, peasy right? Unfortunately, it’s much more complicated than that.
Gluten is hidden in many products – cross contamination is a huge culprit and even beauty products like lip gloss can trigger a response. Many restaurants can’t guarantee a gluten-free experience, and with so many people choosing to avoid gluten for reasons other than celiac disease, the growing trend is making cross contamination an even bigger concern because many companies are trying to offer “gluten-free” foods but are not trained in food safety.
If you’re living with celiac disease or you know someone who must avoid gluten, these are my 7 top recommendations for gluten free products:
Stephanie Ferrari, MS, RDN is a Boston-based registered dietitian and the co-founder of FRESH Communications. When she’s not working, you’ll find her knee-deep in toys and leading sing-alongs with her husband and daughters.