If you’re at all interested in a healthy lifestyle, recent years may have brought the term ‘celiac disease’ (alternatively spelled ‘Coeliac’ in British English) to your attention. The disease usually becomes manifest from middle infancy onward and is apparent through chronic fatigue, a failure to develop properly in children, as well as long and frequent spells of diarrhea.
While the disorder can be managed with a reasonable amount of effort, it is difficult to diagnose in an accurate and timely manner, since, of late, more and more cases of people with no symptoms, yet who tested positive, have come to the attention of the medical community. Essentially, celiac disease is an autoimmune syndrome, it is genetically influenced (i.e., children of sufferers are highly likely to inherit it), it affects the small intestine and is caused by an inability to properly metabolize gluten.
What Is Gluten?
Gluten is found in some of the most common grains cultivated the world over: wheat, barley and rye. Celiac is actually caused by the body’s improper reaction to the protein gliadin. Since gluten is a common component of many foods, from bread and pasta to cookies and crackers, avoiding it may often prove difficult. As such, it’s no surprise that celiac affects many people in the United States: statistics have the number pegged at anything between 1 in 1,750 individuals to 1 in 105. While stats vary widely across the board, the reality of the disorder’s common occurrence is hard to dispute.
Losing Weight with Celiac: a Plan
When celiac disease first started gaining in prominence, weight loss for sufferers seemed hardly a matter of concern. After all, severe bouts of chronic diarrhea will cause massive weight gain in most cases. While this may be true, an increasing number of people afflicted is reporting bloating and serious water retention as associated with their other symptoms.
Water retention can be particularly frustrating to dieters, since it will cause them to effectively put on weight, even if they’re not eating much of anything. What is more, chronically retaining water makes it next to impossible to shed those ‘water pounds’. What a person with celiac needs to do, first and foremost, is get to the bottom of the water retention. Only when properly diagnosed can they proceed to implementing a working weight loss plan.
Weight loss is largely a matter of lifestyle, and that’s where a medical diagnosis for intolerance to any sort of nutrient can prove to be a blessing in disguise. If a doctor tells you that you’re not allowed to eat something, because it will make you physically sick, chances are you’re going to listen. As it so happens, gluten is included in some of the most diet-unfriendly foodstuffs, from cake and bread to pasta. As such, switching to a celiac diet can actually prove beneficial for non-sufferers as well. This type of diet completely excludes some of the most prominent sources of simple carbs (such as white, highly refined grains) and replaces them with complex carbohydrates (brown rice, quinoa, amaranth, soy, and buckwheat). All of the grains listed above will help keep sugar levels at bay, which, in turn, will aid in the control of cravings. For the rest of the diet, the general healthy eating principles apply: plenty of fruit and vegetables (most are gluten free), lean protein and small amounts of non-trans or highly saturated fats.
How to Get Tested
All diets should begin with a blood test, but when dealing with celiac, this is particularly important. Nowadays, blood work can be ordered online and testing for celiac usually only entails serological blood tests. IgA, anti-tTG and antibodies to endomysium tests are all highly sensitive and specific to determining intolerance to gluten. Should the results come back positive, it is especially important to do a follow-up endoscopy or gastroscopy, as well as a biopsy. Experts recommend getting one anyway, since one in 100 results have historically turned to be false negatives, in this disorders’ brief, yet poignant past.