What is gluten?
Gluten is a protein component found in many grains like wheat, rye, barley and oats. Once inside the body, gluten breaks down into smaller parts called gliadin and glutenin. Although most individuals have no problem digesting gluten, some individuals suffer from what is known as celiac sprue. Celiac sprue may also be referred to as gluten intolerance or gluten enteropathy.
What is celiac disease and is it common?
Celiac disease is a genetic disorder. When an individual with celiac disease eats gluten, it sets off an autoimmune response that causes damage to the small intestine. This in turn causes the small intestine to lose its ability to absorb nutrients and may lead to malnutrition or other serious complications. Recent studies show that as many as one in 133 people in the United States has celiac disease. However, findings also show that only about 3 percent of individuals with celiac disease have been diagnosed. The Mayo Clinic reports a 9-fold increase in diagnosis of individuals with celiac disease in 2002-2003.
Celiac sprue individuals may have symptoms of weakness, abdominal cramps and bloating, diarrhea after eating foods that contain gluten, and anemia (iron deficiency). Celiac disease also has a strong association with insulin-dependent diabetes, especially in small children. Because of the painful symptoms, most people with celiac disease choose to follow a gluten-free diet. In fact, the best and only known treatment for celiac sprue is achieving, as nearly as possible, a gluten-free diet.
What is a gluten-free diet?
The gluten-free diet is based on foods that are free from wheat, rye, barley and oats or their derivatives. Individuals following a gluten-free diet must be very good at reading labels to decide if a food is really okay for their diet. Gluten is hidden in many processed foods like soy sauce, fried foods and rice cereals. If there is a question about a product, then it’s best to omit it or call the manufacturer directly. The reason that individuals with celiac disease need to ban all gluten from their diet is because even a small particle can do silent damage to their small intestine. When there is damage to the small intestine, there is a risk of developing more serious health problems.
What can gluten-intolerant individuals eat?
There are lots of foods that are naturally gluten-free including fresh vegetables, fresh fruits, fresh and minimally processed meats, fish and poultry, potatoes and sweet potatoes, and aged hard cheese such as cheddar, Swiss and Parmesan. To assist gluten-intolerant individuals, Hy-Vee has developed a gluten-free list that includes all Hy-Vee private label products that are gluten-free. You can access this gluten-free list by visiting www.hy-vee.com and clicking on the “health” section. You can find recipe ideas by clicking on the “recipes” section of the web site and choosing the category “gluten-free recipes”. Many Hy-Vee stores also carry brands that have gluten-free breads, pastas, snack chips and flours for their customers’ shopping convenience. Hy-Vee is committed to proving customers with accurate health information and quality products to fit into a healthy lifestyle.
Additional information regarding gluten may be obtained by contacting your health care professional or:
Celiac Sprue Association/United States of America, Inc.
PO Box 31700
Omaha, NE 68131-0700
This information is not intended as medical advice. Please consult a medical professional for individual advice.