If you can't tolerate gluten, you are not alone. In fact, the National Institutes of Health* calculates that 1 in every 133 people in the United States has celiac disease or gluten enteropathy. Many others may be sensitive to gluten without having full-blown celiac disease.
Gluten is a kind of protein found in grains like wheat, rye, and barley. It's often found in foods such as crackers, bread, pasta, and baked goods, and in many other foods you wouldn't expect to contain these grains. When you have celiac disease, your body's immune system attacks the gluten, which hurts your small intestine. It also makes it harder for your body to absorb necessary nutrients.
Children who have celiac disease tend to have digestive symptoms, including:
Adults may have additional non-digestive symptoms, including:
Because the symptoms are similar to other conditions, sufferers may be thought to have irritable bowel syndrome, chronic fatigue syndrome, or other common conditions. There is an antibody blood test that can help with diagnosis, and an intestinal biopsy can be done, if needed. If your symptoms disappear when you stop eating products containing gluten , you may not need any testing at all.
The most common treatment for celiac disease is to avoid foods that contain gluten. Potatoes and alternative flours, like those made with corn, rice, oats,buckwheat, flax, and soy are good options. Eggs and other forms of dairy are fine, although your doctor may suggest you avoid milk and milk products at the start of your treatment, until your intestine heals. Also ask your doctor about referring you to a registered dietitian for help.
Read our health encyclopedia for more on food intolerance or allergies. As more people are diagnosed with celiac disease, more online resources become available. Check out the Gluten Free Girl* and Gluten Free Goddess* blogs, which provide tips and support for people who are gluten intolerant, as well as delicious recipes.
*Kaiser Permanente is not responsible for the content or policies of external Internet sites.Back to top