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Intolerance to gluten common

Published: Wednesday, Sept. 11, 2013 1:15 a.m. CDT

Celiac Disease Awareness Day is Sept. 13. You may know someone with celiac disease as approximately 1 in 133 people have it. It is the most common genetic disease in the United States. 

n What is celiac disease?

Also known as celiac sprue or gluten-sensitive enteropathy, it is a genetically linked autoimmune disorder that can affect both children and adults. People with celiac disease cannot tolerate gluten – the protein found in grains including wheat, barley and rye. It is important for people with celiac disease to completely avoid foods containing gluten because it will damage their small intestine and will interfere with nutrient absorption. 

n How do you know if you have celiac disease?

Your physician can perform a blood test to diagnose celiac disease; and then will often do a small bowel biopsy to identify the extent of damage done to the small intestine.

Symptoms of the disease are abdominal cramping/bloating, diarrhea, fatigue, anemia and constipation, however, there is no such thing as a “typical celiac”, so symptoms can vary widely.

What type of diet is recommended for people with celiac disease?

A gluten-free diet is necessary upon diagnosis. When gluten is removed from the diet, most of the damage that was done to the small intestine is repaired. Gluten is a protein found in many grain items including breads, pastas, and crackers.

Gluten is also “hidden” in many processed foods such as the coating on frozen French fries, soy sauce and many salad dressings. Foods such as brown or white rice, corn, flax, potatoes and popcorn are examples of items that are gluten-free. There are also many products including cereals, pastas and bread mixes that are gluten-free. In many grocery stores, there is a gluten-free product section, but there are many food items throughout the store that are appropriate for a gluten-free diet as well. Gluten-free cookbooks are also widely available.

Is a gluten-free diet recommended for persons who do not have celiac disease?

Some famous celebrity figures have promoted following a gluten-free diet for better health and for weight loss. There is no evidence showing that a gluten-free diet helps with weight reduction. In fact, unnecessarily eliminating grain items from your diet can cause nutrient deficiencies including zinc, fiber and B vitamins.

Celiac disease is lifelong and currently incurable. The only known treatment is strictly following a gluten-free diet.

For more information about celiac disease, log on to the Celiac Sprue Association’s website at www.csaceliacs.info. There is also a local Sauk Valley Gluten-Free Support Group with regular meetings held in Dixon. For more information about the local support group, contact Joy Meyer at 815-973-0537. Support is available and it is entirely possible to live a healthy, happy, gluten-free life.

Quinoa and Black Beans

Makes 10 servings and is gluten-free

1 teaspoon canola oil

1 onion, chopped

3 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped

¾ cup uncooked quinoa

1½ cups vegetable broth

1 teaspoon cumin

¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper

Salt and pepper to taste

1 cup frozen corn kernels

1 (15-ounce) can black beans, rinsed and drained

½ cup chopped fresh cilantro

Add chopped zucchini and/or fresh chopped tomatoes if desired

Heat oil in medium saucepan over medium heat. Stir in onion and garlic and sauté until lightly browned. Mix quinoa into the saucepan and cover with vegetable broth. Season with cumin, cayenne pepper, salt and pepper. Bring the mixture to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 20 minutes. Stir in frozen corn and zucchini (optional) and continue to simmer about 5 minutes until heated through. Mix in the black beans, tomatoes (optional) and cilantro.

Nutrition information per serving: 218 calories, 2.1 g fat, 118 mg sodium, 38.8 g carbohydrate, 7.9 g fiber, 2.0 g sugar, 12.2 g protein.

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