May is National Celiac Disease Awareness Month, a great time to learn more about this autoimmune disease, and how it can be managed through healthy eating and nutrition.
Celiac disease is caused by sensitivity to protein (gluten) found in wheat, barley and rye. For those with celiac disease, these grains trigger an immune response that damages the small intestine's lining and can lead to nutrient deficiencies. It's estimated that celiac disease affects one percent of Americans.
While celiac disease cannot be cured, the condition can be managed. People with celiac disease can lead long, healthy lives.
The only treatment for celiac disease is to eat a gluten-free diet. Fortunately, there are plenty of foods that are naturally gluten free, including fruits, vegetables, beef, poultry, fish, nuts, eggs and more. And a gluten-free diet doesn't mean an end to bread. Several delicious and nutritious grains can be used in place of grains that contain gluten.
A growing number of foods are being developed by manufacturers to answer consumers' increasing interest in gluten-free products. So look for packages labeled "gluten free" in your grocery store.
Managing celiac disease is not just about eliminating gluten from your diet. It also involves making sure you get all the vitamins and nutrients you need — particularly iron, calcium, fiber, the B vitamins thiamin and riboflavin, and niacin and folate.
A registered dietitian nutritionist can help you understand which foods are safe to eat, which to avoid, and can ensure you get the nutrients you need for a strong, energetic life. An RDN can help you plan for meals at home and for eating out and will work within your lifestyle to help you keep a healthy weight.