image of wheat and flour

By Dr. Andrea Culliford

In the last few years, more and more foods are being advertised as gluten-free, and restaurants have become more accommodating by offering gluten-free dishes.
But what does it mean to be gluten intolerant?

Celiac disease is a disease of gluten intolerance. It is a condition that does not allow one’s body to digest a protein called “gluten.” This protein is found in wheat, barley and rye or foods prepared with these substances. The small intestine absorbs food. When our bodies
are allergic to gluten, the small intestine cannot function properly and symptoms such as abdominal pain, diarrhea, weight loss, skin rashes, and bloating can occur. It is estimated that one in one hundred people in the U.S. may have this disease.

Is there a test?
Doctors use more than one test to accurately make a diagnosis of celiac disease. A blood test and a biopsy of the small intestine should be done to make the diagnosis.

What is the treatment if I have celiac disease?
The best treatment is to stop eating food that contains gluten. It is not easy to avoid because it is found in bread, pasta, pastries and cereal, as well as beer and sauces. You may see a nutritionist or doctor that specializes in avoiding gluten to be sure that you are not eating it. The good news is that there are many delicious foods available that do not contain gluten. People usually feel a lot better within a month of eating a gluten-free diet.