Celiac disease is a condition whereby the body reacts to gluten and cause damages in the lining of small intestine. This affects the nutrients absorption into the body and leads to malnutrition.

Celiac disease is more prevalent in European women. It is not an allergy to food but an autoimmune disease. People with Celiac disease have a higher risk of other autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis and systemic lupus. Other risks included intestinal cancer, lactose intolerance and thyroid disease.

Symptoms of Celiac disease include abdominal pain, bloating and indigestion. Constipation, diarrhea, nausea and vomiting plus lost in appetite and unexplained weight loss.

Gluten is a certain type of protein found in certain grains such as wheat, barley, oat and rye. The way to manage this disease is to avoid gluten exposure completely and let the body intestine slowly heal by itself.

How do you manage a gluten-free life?

Once you are diagnosed with Celiac disease, you need to create new lifestyle habits that limit exposure to gluten. Here are some ways you can consider:

1) Diet

Take gluten out of your diet. Fruits and vegetables, beef, chicken, fish and pork are free of gluten. Grains that are gluten-free are rice, corn, soy, quinoa, millet, buckwheat, potato, sorghum and amaranth.

Learn to read food labels carefully. Look out for ingredients in the label to avoid; barley, rye, triticale, wheat, malt vinegar, malt sugar. Bear in mind that wheat free does not mean gluten-free. The US FDA approve the label of “gluten free” if it contain 20 ppm of gluten.

2) Cross contamination

Even a small amount of gluten from cross contamination of food preparation can cause an autoimmune reaction. So, be careful of cross contamination from cooking utensils and equipments such as chopping boards, toasters, sifter. Separate gluten-free food from gluten containing food in your store and fridge.

Cross contamination can also happen in the bathroom. Shampoo, soaps, toothpaste, lipsticks and make up may contain hidden ingredients with gluten and can get into your mouth. Many toiletries will not label “gluten free”. So you really need to read the ingredients carefully.

3) Dinning out

This is the biggest challenge in staying gluten-free as you need to research and make a list of restaurants that serve gluten-free cuisine. Make sure all ingredients in your food are free of gluten. You may have to talk to the chef to understand what are the ingredients used and what safety precautions are used to avoid gluten cross contamination.

4) Be firm and say no

If food offered to you taste, smell and does not feel right to you, you should be firm about saying “ No, thank you”. Your priority is to take care of your body and not being nice. It is better to be picky about your food than being sick in the bathroom or worst, emergency room in the hospital.

5) Be prepared

Be prepared and planned ahead. Have gluten-free snacks easily available in your car, office and hand bag as you may not know when your next gluten-free food is available. The last thing you want to do is to settle for something unknown just because you are too hungry.

Living with Celiac disease requires a change in lifestyle that takes effort and planning. But you can reap the reward of a healthy body to enjoy life to its fullest.

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