Up and down the grocery aisles, you see it displayed proudly: GLUTEN-FREE! Even restaurants have gluten-free meal options. It's reminiscent of the Atkins era when foods were labeled as low carb in order to entice consumers. The gluten-free diet isn't a fad, but rather the key to living a healthy life for those suffering from Celiac Disease.

What Is Celiac Disease?

Celiac Disease is an autoimmune genetic condition inherited from one or both parents. When someone with Celiac Disease eats food containing gluten (proteins from specific grains), it creates an immune reaction, which is when the body produces antibodies against a foreign substance. This reaction causes damage to the small intestine leading to poor absorption of vital nutrients in addition to other symptoms. Celiac Disease is lifelong and affects children and adults, males and females. There is no cure, and the only current treatment is a gluten-free diet.

What Foods Contain Gluten?

Gluten is found in wheat, spelt, oats, rye, barley, and triticale. That means, most of what is in your pantry contains gluten, including pasta, flour, bread, soups, bagels, cookies, cake, and pretzels. In order to be healthy, a person with Celiac Disease must eliminate all food containing gluten. This can be difficult, but because of the rise in Celiac Disease diagnoses, some companies have begun creating gluten-free products while other companies have begun marketing their already gluten-free products to the celiac community.

How Do We Test for Celiac Disease?

A simple blood test can help determine if you or your child might be suffering from Celiac Disease. However, the blood test is only used to either rule out Celiac Disease or determine if further diagnostic testing is necessary. The blood test checks for high levels of certain antibodies. If high levels are present, an intestinal biopsy should be scheduled. Small pieces of tissue from the small intestine will be removed to check for damage. This is an outpatient procedure in which the doctor uses an endoscope inserted through the mouth. This biopsy will determine whether a person has Celiac Disease or not.

You may think the gluten-free diet is another fad, but Celiac Disease is a serious condition that is manageable once it is diagnosed. If you suspect your child may be suffering from the affects of Celiac Disease, talk to her pediatrician.

Related Reading: