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Hicksville Voices

The Rise Of Celiac Disease

Celiac disease is on the rise in the United States, as well as in the United Kingdom. The autoimmune disorder, which is also known as celiac sprue, occurs in individuals who are genetically predisposed to the condition. It can occur at any age.

Symptoms of the disorder are pain and discomfort in the gastrointestinal system, chronic constipation and diarrhea, anemia, and fatigue. Infants diagnosed with the condition also suffer with a failure to thrive. Symptoms have been noted in other organ systems, and are not just adherent to the GI tract. Vitamin deficiencies are commonplace, secondary to the fact that the individual is unable to absorb nutrients in the small intestine properly. Gliadin, the gluten protein found in wheat, barley, rye, and sometimes oats, is the culprit for wreaking such havoc on the sufferer’s body.

I can’t tell you how many people I have come in contact with who are suffering with celiac, or who are sensitive to gluten protein. A recent study done in the United Kingdom states that the diagnosed cases of sprue have increased fourfold over the last few years. In the United States, there has been confirmed documentation that substantiates the number of cases diagnosed yearly. In the United States, 1 out of every 105 people have undiagnosed celiac; in the UK, the number is 1 in 100.

In our home, both my daughter and I must follow the gluten free diet, for health reasons. We have learned to adapt recipes in order to enjoy old favorites, such as vegetable pot pie, bread, cookies, cakes, pies and pizza. We’ve both been rather lucky; we live in a town where there are not one, but two gluten free bakeries to choose goodies from, and many bakeries, pizzerias and restaurants are getting on board to offer gluten free items that are cooked and baked in dedicated gluten free areas. If the restaurant or bakery does not use a dedicated area, cross contamination can occur, which could really ruin our day. It might sound a bit dramatic, but it’s the truth. Ask anyone with a sensitivity; they will tell you pretty much the same thing. Cross contamination makes for very unhappy campers.

Gluten free diets are also commonplace for those who suffer with irritable bowel syndrome. Gluten containing items are not permitted on the FODMAP diet. Researchers in Australia discovered that FODMAPs, or foods containing Fermentable Olgio-, Di- and Monosaccharides and Polyols, increased liquid and gas in the small and large intestine. This increase of liquid and gas caused an increase in abdominal pain, bloating and other symptoms, which was anathema for a sufferer with IBS. Eliminating these foods alleviated symptoms, and in some cases, eliminated them. This was how my daughter started eating gluten-free; she suffers with IBS. And I have to tell you that the diet has helped her tremendously. The diet is also being suggested by neurologists for patients suffering with MS; The Best Bet Diet and MS Recovery Diet have helped many sufferers to not only improve their symptoms, also helps them to feel healthier. Children with autism also reap the benefits of following a gluten free diet.

Many mainstream manufacturers have gotten on the bandwagon, as they offer gluten free alternatives. Betty Crocker, Chex, Snyder’s of Hanover, and Barilla all offer gluten free options with a pretty decent taste. It’s a vast improvement over what was available seven or more years ago.

Food for thought: What has caused such a sudden and rapid increase in the number of cases diagnosed yearly of celiac? My sneaking suspicion is that GMOs might be the culprit…but that’s all subject to speculation.