Although, still not exactly well-know or understood, Celiac disease is receiving more attention with an increase in the number of people who are diagnosed with it each passing year. This not so recently discovered disease has only become a popular topic of discussion over the last few decades. Despite possibly being previously discovered by a Greek physician named Aretaeus of Cappadocia, living in the first century AD, and further identified by Dr. Matthew Baillie in the early 19th century, this disease was officially credited to being discovered by an English doctor named Samuel Gee.
Celiac Disease is a health condition that damages the body’s digestive system ultimately weakening the body’s immune system after ingesting gluten-containing substances. The Celiac Disease Foundation explains it as, an autoimmune disorder that can occur in genetically predisposed people, where the ingestion of gluten leads to damage in the small intestine. Statistics show that this disease may affect 1 in 100 people worldwide. Two and a half million Americans are undiagnosed and are at risk for long-term health complications.
Recent health studies have discovered that people suffering with this disease are not only affected by gluten containing foods and beverages, but may also be affected by dairy containing foods as well. Since there is no exact cure for Celiac disease, the only way to treat it is to remain on a lifelong, strict gluten-free, and possibly dairy-free diet. If gone untreated, this disease can cause such health risks as autoimmune disorders like Type I diabetes, multiple sclerosis (MS), anemia, osteoporosis, dermatitis herpetiformis, as well as short stature, intestinal cancers, infertility, miscarriage, and even neurological conditions like epilepsy and migraines. Other long-term health effects due to not treating this disease are vitamin and mineral deficiencies, central and peripheral nervous system disorders, pancreatic insufficiency, gall bladder malfunction and various other autoimmune conditions.
Gluten is a glue-like protein that can be found in different types of wheat such as spelt, farina, durum, emmer, farro, as well as in barley, rye, and triticale. This ultimately means that gluten can be found in most breads, pastas, cereals, baked goods and many other foods. Since this disease limits the variety of food people can consume by not allowing them the ability to eat foods that contain gluten, dairy and several other ingredients, it limits the range of food establishments they can purchase food from. The lack of awareness for this disease causes a chain reaction that affects restaurants, supermarkets and various other food distributors as well by limiting their target audience.
Like many people who suffer from this disease, one well-known actress, Jennifer Esposito, has spoken repeatedly about its effects on her health and her life. After being diagnosed by her doctor, Dr. Patrick Fratellone of Fratellone Medical Associates, she had announced to the public in recent years how she too suffers from it. She wrote about her journey with Celiac in her book Jennifer’s Way, which revealed how she came to discover and diagnose the disease that would change her life forever. The book was well received by the celiac community as it informed many who have this disease, how to possibly identify and treat it. Esposito, offers people with Celiac the opportunity to eat healthy celiac approved foods at her bakery located in the East Village in Manhattan, NY.
Although most foods by default do not meet the exact qualifications of meals people who have this disease can consume, there are however alternatives ingredients for creating celiac approved foods. Some alternative cooking and baking ingredients are certain nut flours and butters, arrowroot, sorghum flour, brown rice flour, potato starch and xanthan gum. It is also important, when making celiac approved foods to avoid cross contamination, which can affect people with this disease, just as severe as if they directly consumed a gluten-containing item.
By Robert Masucci