About Gluten

What is Gluten?

Gluten is a protein found in wheat that gives elasticity to dough, helping it to rise and keep its shape. Gluten is a combination of gliadin and glutenin, which is joined with starch in various grains. Gliadin is what enables bread to rise properly while glutenin is the major protein in wheat flour, making up 47% of the total protein content.

What is the difference between  a Celiac and Gluten Intolerent?

What Is Celiac Disease? When people with Celiac Disease eat foods or use products containing gluten, their immune system responds by damaging the small intestine. The tiny, fingerlike protrusions lining the small intestine are damaged or destroyed. Called villi, they normally allow nutrients from food to be absorbed into the bloodstream. Without healthy villi, a person becomes malnourished, regardless of the quantity or quality of food eaten. Recognizing Celiac Disease can be difficult because some of its symptoms mirror those of other diseases. In fact, sometimes Celiac Disease is confused with irritable bowel syndrome, iron-deficiency anemia caused by menstrual blood loss, Crohn’s disease, diverticulitis, intestinal infections, and chronic fatigue syndrome. As a result, Celiac Disease is commonly misdiagnosed.

Symptoms Of Celiac Early signs and symptoms of Celiac include: Stomach pain, bloating, gas, decreased appetite, weight loss, intermittent or constant diarrhea, nausea and/or vomiting, and floating stools that are bloody or fatty in appearance. Long-term symptoms include easy bruising, hair loss, missed menstrual periods, fatigue and joint pain, and dermatitis, or itchy.

Diagnosing The Disease: The results of a blood test can help detect Celiac Disease. If a blood test comes back positive for the appropriate antibodies, an upper endoscopy may be performed to assess possible damage to the small intestine, more specifically the duodenum. If there is a flattening of the villi, those finger-like projections that absorb nutrients, the doctor or a registered dietitian will work with the patient to create a gluten-free diet. After a few months, the doctor may order another round of blood tests and an endoscopy to evaluate the body’s response. Genetic testing is also helpful for relatives of those with Celiac Disease, as the disease is hereditary and common among first-degree relatives.

The Longterm Damage Of Celiac According to the American Celiac Disease Alliance, eating gluten can cause those with Celiac Disease to be malnourished. This is because the body cannot absorb vitamins and minerals from food, and instead excretes them in the stool. This can cause weight loss and vitamin deficiencies, which if severe enough can lead to stunted growth, neurological problems, and low bone density. Calcium and vitamin D are lost in the stool as well, which can lead to rickets in children (a type of kidney stone), as well as osteomalacia (softening of bones), osteopenia, and osteoporosis. Cancer, especially gastrointestinal cancer, has also been reported to occur in cases of longstanding untreated celiac disease.

Celiac's Dietary Restrictions Sufferers of Celiac Disease cannot eat foods made with all-purpose flour, bleached flour, bran, couscous, wheat bran, or wheat starch, among others. Under new labeling laws, any foods containing wheat must be identified in the ingredients section on the food label. Celiac suffers must also avoid rye and barley, the latter of which is often used as malt flavoring. Oats can be tricky: Pure, uncontaminated oats consumed in moderation (up to 1/2 cup of dry oats daily) may be tolerated by some, but not all, celiacs. Gluten-free alternatives include rice, corn (maize), soy, potato, tapioca, beans, quinoa, and nut flours. The Celiac Disease Foundation is a good resource for information about gluten-free foods.

Gluten Intolerance And Gluten Sensitivity : Some people suffer from gluten intolerance, which is different from Celiac in that it is not an immune mediated response. The symptoms of gluten intolerance appear after eating wheat or other foods containing gluten, which can cause abdominal cramping, bloating, diarrhea, and flatulence. Researchers are still investigating whether gluten intolerance over a long period causes permanent intestinal damage. More commonplace is gluten sensitivity, but gluten sensitivity does not cause damage to the intestinal lining.

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