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May is Celiac Awareness Month

I’m Peg Christenson, Registered Nutrition and Dietetic Technician, at Hutchinson Health, with Wellness Wisdom. May is National Celiac Awareness Month. Celiac Disease is a complex autoimmune disease that affects the small intestine after the ingestion of gluten containing grains.

When people with Celiac Disease eat gluten (a protein found in wheat, rye and barley), their body mounts an immune response that attacks the small intestine. These attacks lead to damage of the villi, small fingerlike projections that line the small intestine, that promote nutrient absorption. When the villi get damaged, nutrients cannot be absorbed properly into the body. Celiac disease is hereditary. People with a first-degree relative with Celiac Disease have a 1 in 10 risk of developing Celiac Disease. (

Common Foods That Contain Gluten are:

Pastas, noodles, breads and pastries, crackers, baked goods, cereal and granola (corn flakes and rice puffs often contain malt extract/flavoring) breakfast foods (pancakes, waffles, biscuits) breading and coating mixes, croutons, sauces & gravies (many use wheat flour as a thickener) flour tortillas, beer (unless explicitly gluten-free) and any malt beverages, Brewer’s Yeast, and anything that uses “wheat flour” as an ingredient.

Gluten Free Foods include:

Fruits, vegetables, fresh meats and fish, milk, oatmeal (gluten-free), eggs, nuts and seeds, cheese, popcorn, chips (100% corn or potato that do not contain malt vinegar or wheat starch), and any food that is Gluten Free (GF) certified. The following grains and other starch-containing foods are naturally gluten-free: rice, cassava, corn, soy, potato, tapioca, beans, sorghum, quinoa, millet, buckwheat groats (kasha), arrowroot, amaranth, teff, flax, chia, yucca, gluten-free oats, and nut flours. (

Non-food items may also contain gluten such as cosmetics, dietary supplements, medicines, and Play-dough. It is imperative that people with Celiac Disease review ingredient lists before using a product.

Cross-contamination is another area of concern and occurs when foods or ingredients come into contact with gluten, generally through shared utensils or a shared cooking/storage environment. An example of this is: a toaster that is used for both gluten-free and regular bread or deep fried foods cooked in oil shared with breaded products.

If left untreated, Celiac Disease can lead to additional serious health problems. These include the development of other autoimmune disorders, dermatitis herpetiformis (an itchy skin rash), anemia, osteoporosis, infertility and miscarriage, neurological conditions like epilepsy and migraines, and intestinal cancers. Currently, the only treatment for Celiac Disease is lifelong adherence to a strict gluten-free diet. (

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