The Celiac Disease & Gluten Connection: What You Need to Know

gingerbread cookies, rye bread


Imagine for a few moments, what life might have been like as an early human.

From living in caves to fashioning clothing out of animal skin and bones, humans living over 12,000 years ago had an everyday reality that was radically different from the way we live our days today.

Take diet for instance–before the dawn of the agricultural revolution, our hunter-gatherer society subsisted on primarily fruit, nuts, and meat.

The human gut, which took approximately two million years to develop into an advanced organ, enabled early humans to easily digest these foods.

However, as Cure Celiac Disease describes, the domestication of crops and animals that came along with the agricultural revolution meant that new foods were introduced into the human diet.

Most humans were able to process the newer foods, such as protein from cow, goat, and donkey milk, as well as birds’ eggs and cereals.

Unfortunately, these foods didn’t necessarily jive with everyone’s bodies, and hence, food intolerances proliferated throughout the human population.

Celiac disease is one such example of a food intolerance that arose from the introduction of gluten–the protein found in wheat, barley, and rye–into the human diet.

Celiac Disease, Explained

Celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder characterized by the inability of the small intestine to digest gluten.

Instead of reacting to gluten as simply another dietary component to digest, the body reacts to it as if it were a poison, and the immune system destroys the part of the small intestine that absorbs important nutrients.

The list of resulting symptoms is extensive, ranging from gas, bloating, and diarrhea, to headaches and neurological issues.

Unfortunately, in the long term, celiac disease can lead to malnutrition and other serious health problems, such as…

  • Iron deficiency anemia: Up to 33% of celiac disease patients have anemia, due to the fact that their body has issues in absorbing iron (source).
  • Early onset osteoporosis or osteopenia: Celiac sufferers also have difficulty absorbing calcium, leading to weakened bones. Even though conditions such as osteoporosis are typically experienced by older individuals, people with celiac disease may experience these conditions earlier in life.
  • Infertility and miscarriage: Although the link is not entirely understood, women with celiac disease experience higher cases of infertility and miscarriage. However, when switching to a gluten-free diet, there has been increased fertility in patients. Which brings me to the next point…

Receiving a diagnosis and subsequently adopting a gluten free diet can mitigate the risks of these longer-term health conditions created by celiac disease.

The Importance of Eliminating Gluten

According to Gluten Free Living, as many as one in 141 people have celiac disease, although most have not been diagnosed.

Upon receiving a diagnosis, people with celiac may be relieved to finally understand what’s happening in their body.

On the other hand, they may also feel frustrated once they realize the need to cut gluten from their diet.

Food isn’t simply something we consume to stay nourished–it plays a large role in social outings and norms. Saying no to bread at a restaurant or having to tell a friend what you do or don’t eat when he or she invites you over for dinner can feel like a hassle.

Fortunately, many restaurants and grocery stores offer an increasing number of gluten-free alternatives, and being gluten-free is generally becoming more prevalent and accepted in society.

Instead of focusing on your limitations, get creative and explore the many recipes that consist of delicious and healthy vegetables, fruits, meat, fish, and more.

Additionally, being gluten-free doesn’t mean you have to cut all grains out of your diet. Gluten-free grains include rice, corn, quinoa, soy, beans, and more.

If you have celiac disease and want to feel better and improve your long-term health, switching to a gluten-free diet can work wonders.

Celiac disease isn’t the only autoimmune condition linked to gluten consumption. Learn more about how this protein adversely affects those struggling with other conditions such as arthritis, psoriasis, type 1 diabetes, and others.

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