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Sunday, July 15, 2007

Diabetes and Celiac Disease

Oats and barley are not as popular today as they should be, but rye and wheat are almost inevitable in a typical diet. Such foods are important sources of complex carbohydrates. They play pivotal roles in keeping blood glucose levels stable in people under treatment for diabetes. Cookies with sugar are out, but the average diabetes diet is built around plenty of bread and pasta.

Celiac disease, like diabetes, is difficult to suspect in its early stages. You could have a bout of diarrhea, but then that can happen to anyone, and there are myriad reasons for such an event. A child may fall off planned diabetic meals, but that could be plain boredom? A person with diabetes may suffer from hypoglycemia, but then the doctor may have got drug doses wrong. Yet, any of these transient conditions may be because of developing celiac disease, and your physician might not think of it: actually, you may even forget to report it!

Celiac disease is the inability to digest gluten, a substance found in wheat, barley, oats, and rye. The disease results in physical damage to the lining of the digestive tract, so it has serious implications for the long term if it is neglected or ignored. Celiac disease is easy for a doctor to confuse with Irritable Bowel Syndrome and some other disorders of the digestive tract. It is tempting to overlook symptoms as well when we are busy with the more pressing issue of diabetes. Unfortunately, diabetes and celiac disease can and do co-exist in some patients.

Celiac disease can be uncovered by blood tests after consuming food with wheat or any of the other cereals which contain gluten. A person with celiac disease will produce antibodies after eating bread or pasta, and these can be picked up through tests for specific antigens. A surgeon can also excise a small portion of the intestine for microscopic examination, which will reveal the characteristic physical damage of celiac disease.

Do ask your doctor whether you have been tested for celiac disease, whether or not you have diabetes, and if you believe that you do not digest bread, pasta, and other processed foods.

Rice is a great option if you have celiac disease. The flour can make great pancakes, apart from getting your carbohydrates from the fragrant grains. However, staying away from gluten altogether can be quite a chore because powdered wheat flour is so ubiquitous, not just in processed and restaurant food, but in packaging material for some products such as chewing gum.

The best way to stay away from gluten altogether should your blood test and biopsy show that you have celiac disease, is to shop and dine at specialty outlets which certify their products and offerings to be completely gluten free.

Your nutrition expert needs to know if you have celiac disease, especially if you have diabetes. Remember that children with type 1 diabetes may have gluten intolerance as well.


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