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If you have been newly diagnosed with celiac disease or non-celiac gluten sensitivity, you are not alone. In fact, you are part of a rapidly growing community of Americans who have been affected by a gluten-related condition.
Experts estimate that over three million Americans currently have Celiac Disease, with the vast majority of them sadly unaware that they have the condition. What's more alarming, is that a suspected twelve to seventeen million Americans exhibit a celiac-like sensitivity to gluten. The number of people affected by gluten-related conditions is projected to grow exponentially, in part as medical professionals become more diagnostically aware, but primarily as modern farming practices, genetically-modified foods, and conventional dietary habits (eating out vs. at home) begin to take their toll.
In your battle to fight gluten, knowledge is power. As important as asking about your new diet is, there are a number of equally important questions that you should be asking a qualified medical professional when you are first diagnosed.
Do I have any nutritional deficiencies? It is critical that you ask a qualified medical professional whether or not you should be tested for nutritional deficiencies. In the case of celiac disease, the body’s primary absorption agent – villi — are often damaged, which is why vitamin and mineral deficiencies are much more common, particularly fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K, as well as folic acid and vitamin B12. If left untreated, nutritional deficiencies can lead to a range of complications, including osteoporosis, anemia, chronic fatigue, dental enamel defects, infertility or miscarriages, anxiety, depression, and even intestinal cancer.
That’s why Mom’s Place Gluten Free is here to replace all the foods you’d miss! We offer over 170 delicious, easy-to-make Gluten Free products that will replace almost everything you need to cook for yourself and your family. From breads, breakfasts, dinners, cream of soups, seasonings and much more. Our products are delicious and nutritious, because all of the employee’s at Mom’s Place have food allergies and we understand your needs.
Where should I go to learn what foods are safe? Although you will eventually learn which foods to avoid, how to grocery shop, and even how to properly prepare gluten-free foods, it may feel like a huge learning curve when you are first diagnosed. It can be very beneficial to attend one of Mom’s Place Gluten Free’s educational classes or watch our previous videos.
We understand the gluten-free landscape and can teach you how to read food labels, avoid common pitfalls (i.e. other foods such as meats, dairy, etc. that also may contain gluten), and how to easily navigate your new lifestyle. Can I consume dairy products? Those with celiac disease commonly suffer from lactose intolerance as well. The enzyme lactase, which breaks down the lactose in dairy, is produced by the intestinal villi. The severity of damage to your villi will often determine whether you can consume dairy products without resulting gastrointestinal distress. The good news is that lactose intolerance can often be reversed or at least lessened, once on the gluten-free diet. (But gluten-related issues are permanent.)
Am I at risk for osteoporosis or osteopenia? Intestinal damage caused by celiac disease typically results in compromised absorption of crucial bone-building nutrients: calcium, magnesium, iron, and vitamin D. These deficiencies can lead to bones that are thinner, more brittle, and easily fractured. It is important to be aware of this and find out if you need to have a bone density scan. The good news is that sustained adherence to a gluten-free diet and will often build bone density and return your bones to normal.
How severe is my intestinal damage? When you are scoped for celiac disease, your gastroenterologist will take samples of your small intestine to evaluate villi damage. Those villi samples are often then accorded a Marsh Score, which ranges from zero (normal) to four (completely flattened). A high Marsh Score may suggest nutritional deficiencies and support additional testing for other malnutrition-related concerns.
What kind of follow-up is necessary? It can’t hurt to have periodic blood tests, which measure specific antibodies, to determine whether or not you are diligently following the gluten-free diet. These tests can reveal whether the dietary changes you have made are sufficient or whether you need to be stricter with not only the foods that you consume, but also the food-preparation environment. It is also common to return to your gastroenterologist in six to twelve months following diagnosis, for a follow-up endoscopy to evaluate your progress.
Is my family at risk? Your immediate family members have a 1 in 22 risk for gluten-related disorders. It is important that they get tested periodically, even if their initial screening is negative, as problems can still develop over time. By arming yourself with knowledge, you will be well on your way to regaining your health and wellness.
Always pay attention to what your body is telling you and do not hesitate to seek the advice of a qualified medical professional or call us at Mom’s Place Gluten Free. We are always here to help with cooking, baking or educational assistance.