Of the 3 million Americans who have celiac disease, an estimated 80 percent don’t realize it. This puts them at high risk for anemia, osteoporosis, infertility, thyroid disorders, and other problems associated with the disease.
Celiac disease (also called sprue or gluten-sensitive enteropathy) is strongly tied to genetics. If someone in your immediate family has it, there is a 15 percent chance that you will, too. In people with celiac disease, eating gluten causes the immune system to attack the small intestine, preventing food from being properly absorbed. The body releases toxic chemicals that assail the villi, tiny hair-like projections that line the small intestines.
Since there is no cure for celiac disease, the only effective treatment is avoiding all grains that contain gluten. Celiac patients must also steer clear of products that use gluten as an additive or binding agent.
Thankfully, there is growing awareness of the disease. Because of this, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reports that there are more than 2,000 wheat-free products available in 2010. The gluten-free food industry is growing at 15 percent per year. Even some Girl Scout cookies are gluten free.
For more information, visit the Celiac Disease Foundation online at www.celiac.org.
This message was adapted from “When You Can’t Eat Wheat” written by Molly M. Ginty that first appeared in the October 2010 issue of Lutheran Woman Today (now Gather) magazine. for articles about faith, action, comfort and community.