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Celiac Disease and Diabetes: Wheat Ails You?

Going Gluten-free

Maybe you have symptoms that aren't typical, or a doctor who isn't familiar with celiac disease, or you can't get a referral to a specialist. If you feel you've done all you can with your health care professionals and you want to get more evidence to present to them, you might consider going gluten-free.

It's not going to be easy. Gluten is found in wheat, rye, barley, possibly oats, and some other grains. That means all the common flours found in mainstream breads, cookies, crackers, and pasta are now off-limits.

You can't just reduce your gluten intake; your diet has to be 100 percent gluten-free. And you can't "cheat." The damage to your intestine from a meal with gluten takes time to heal. It's this damage that leads to symptoms, so symptoms continue long after that one meal containing gluten is out of your system. If you diligently follow a gluten-free diet for five days and then have one cookie at an office party, your intestine will suffer.

Hidden gluten is a problem. If you unknowingly consume some gluten (many brands of soy sauce, for example, contain gluten) and don't see much improvement in your symptoms after two weeks of your diet, you might think, "Well, I guess it wasn't celiac." Then you might go additional months or years before getting diagnosed.

Some medications contain gluten as part of their inactive ingredients. Glucotrol, for example, may contain gluten. Check with your pharmacist or call the manufacturer of each of the drugs you take to see if the drug may contain gluten. If it does contain gluten, do not stop taking the drug. Talk to your doctor about what to do.

People with diabetes have additional challenges in going gluten-free. You'll be changing many of your usual sources of carbohydrate. This will very likely affect your blood sugar levels.

So again, if you do have celiac disease, it would be much, much better to get a real diagnosis. You'll have more reason to be committed to the diet, and you can get professional guidance as you make the required diet changes.

That said, if you're determined to try a gluten-free diet on your own, we have some suggestions.