Celiac disease is a genetic digestive disease that damages the small intestine and interferes with the absorption of nutrients from food. People with celiac disease cannot tolerate gluten, a protein in wheat, barley, and rye. Although gluten is found mainly in foods, it can also be found in everyday products such as medicines, vitamins, and lip balms.
When a person with celiac disease eats foods or uses products containing gluten, their immune system responds by damaging or destroying villi—the tiny, fingerlike protrusions lining the small intestine that allow nutrients to be absorbed from food through the walls of the intestine into the bloodstream. Without healthy villi, a person becomes malnourished, no matter how much they eat.
Symptoms vary from person to person and may occur in the digestive system or in the other parts of the body. Common symptoms include:
abdominal bloating and pain
pale, foul-smelling, or fatty stool
“A person dealing with celiac disease should eat a gluten-free diet for the rest of their life to prevent symptoms from reoccurring or to reduce long-term side effects,” says Amanda Jochum, a registered dietitian and trained wellness coach at HyVee. She explains that people with celiac disease can benefit greatly from formulating a healthy meal plan and talking with a registered dietitian about a gluten-free lifestyle.
Gluten-free products are becoming more available nationwide in grocery stores, health food stores, and restaurants. Here are some local restaurants with gluten-free items on their menus:
Blue Planet Natural Grill
September is National Celiac Awareness Month. For more information, visit www.csaceliacs.org for the Omaha support group, Celiac Sprue Association.