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Celiac Disease Overview


Celiac Disease Treatment

Currently, there is no cure for celiac disease. The only treatment for the condition is a strictly gluten-free diet. A gluten-free diet is notably difficult to stick to; once you start looking for it, you'll see gluten lurking everywhere. People with celiac disease are forced to become strict label readers and grand inquisitors of restaurant waiters.

The holy trinity of gluten-containing grains to avoid is wheat, barley and rye. That means no breads, cereals, pastas, crackers or baked goods made from any of these sources. Additionally, gluten can be found in salad dressings, soy sauce, peanut butter, fat-free sour cream, ice cream, pudding and beer. Soups, sauces and gravies that have been thickened with flour are no-no's, as are processed meats and meats prepared in a breaded style. Surprising sources of gluten include vitamins, toothpaste, lipstick and envelope adhesive.

In recent years, though, many products on that forbidden list have entered the marketplace with a huge gluten-free label, so those with celiac disease have been able to indulge in pizza, cookies and beer once more. These items tend to be more expensive than their gluten-containing counterparts, however, and still require extreme diligence when it comes to checking the label. Some restaurants, even Italian restaurants with gluten-laden menus, have been able to concoct gluten-free substitutes. When you can't check a label, spend some time talking to the waiter or the chef about ingredients and preparation practices.

Many with celiac disease may find it easier to stick to this list of safe foods, which includes any vegetable or fruit, clear soups, nuts, dried beans, milk, eggs, unprocessed cheeses and meats, jellies and jams, sugar and products made with gluten-free grains and starches, which include corn, rice, soy, potato and quinoa.

It's very important for people with celiac disease to avoid cheating on this diet, which requires an immense amount of willpower in this carb-laden world. Even if the symptoms they experience after a piece of pizza are mild, the gluten can still damage the small intestine. However, there are benefits to this strict diet; celiac disease symptoms should disappear within a few days or weeks of eating gluten-free foods, and the small intestine will begin to recover and absorb nutrients soon after that. Those that suspect that they'd be helped by the diet shouldn't begin it until they've been tested by a doctor, though, as eating gluten-free can distort the blood tests that lead to a conclusive diagnosis of celiac disease. For more on starting a gluten-free lifestyle, see How to Eat a Gluten-free Diet.

Though a gluten-free diet is the only option for now, many companies are working on a pill that could be popped to treat the condition. Such medication would likely work in the same way that pills work to allow the lactose intolerant to consume milk, or it may stall the autoimmune responses that interfere with the digestion of gluten.