On Friday, August 2, 2013, an FDA ruling was finalized that set a standard for the labeling of gluten-free diet foods. This is good news for the more than three million Americans who must modify their diets in order to deal with the effects of celiac disease. Friday’s ruling enhances a 2004 law that addresses the levels of trace gluten in foods that bear the label of gluten-free.
What is celiac disease?
According to the Mayo Clinic, gluten is a protein found in grains such as wheat, rye and barley. Normally, protein is an important component of our diet. But for people with celiac disease, gluten causes inflammation in the small intestines. Symptoms of celiac disease include:
- abdominal cramps and gas
- bloating of the stomach
- fatty stools
- unexplained weight loss or weight gain
Many who have the disease display no symptoms, yet damage is being done. The inability to digest gluten proteins causes intestinal damage and malnutrition which in turn can cause:
Celiac disease can appear at any time in a person’s life. Its offset is often associated with:
- viral infection
- severe stress
- pregnancy or childbirth
The disease can be diagnosed with lab tests and a biopsy of the small intestine. Because the symptoms mimic other digestive disorders, it may take some time before doctors confirm the diagnosis.
The need for a gluten-free diet
Sabrina Tavernise covered the FDA ruling in her August 2, 2013, post for The New York Times titled, “F.D.A. Sets a Standard on Labeling ‘Gluten Free.’” Tavernise noted that under the new ruling any foods labeled as gluten-free could contain no more than 20 parts per million of gluten.
According to Tavernise, “The limit had long been discussed and did not come as a surprise to industry or patient advocate groups. It was similar to the level adopted in recent years by the European Union and Canada.”
Standards in labeling are important because the most effective treatment for celiac disease is to remove gluten from the diet. This is easier said than done.
Develop gluten awareness
In their book Gut Instincts: A Practical Guide to a Healthy Digestive System, authors Andrew Brett and Andrea Carson explained the dieter’s dilemma.
“Gluten is in many foods that we often don’t know about. For example, it is used in many processed foods and sauces such as soy sauce,” they said. Brett and Carson went on to list other foods that often contain gluten:
- ice cream
- some medications and vitamins
- instant coffee
- candy bars
Now, because of the FDA ruling, consumers will be able to shop with confidence when choosing foods.
Gluten-filled college diet
Unfortunately for college students many traditional snack foods are often filled with gluten, such as:
- Asian noodles
If you’ve been suffering from itchy skin rashes, weight loss or unexplained fatigue, you might want to look closely into your diet.
Get started going gluten-free
With such a long list of foods to watch out for you might think that following a gluten-free diet would be nearly impossible. Not so says Gluten-Free Girl blogger Shauna James Ahern.
In her November 6, 2012, post titled “How To Shop, Gluten-Free, For Thanksgiving,” James included a video illustrating how to shop for a traditional holiday dinner menu.
James’ story is typical of many who have celiac disease but have not yet been diagnosed. After years of suffering with fatigue and other symptoms, James was finally able to find a naturopathic doctor who would perform the proper blood test even when her gastroenterologist would not. The test confirmed that she had celiac disease.
James summed up her experience saying, “I’m not the only one who had to fight her way through the medical system to receive the correct diagnosis and become healthy for the first time in my life. Americans have to wait an average of 11 years, and many doctors, before finally being diagnosed.”
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