October is Celiac Disease Awareness Month

October is Celiac Disease Awareness Month – a great time to learn more about this disease and following a gluten-free diet. Jill Nowak, RD, CDE, clinical dietitian at CHOC Children’s, shares her recommendations and the signs and symptoms of this condition.

What is Celiac Disease?
Celiac disease is an autoimmune digestive disorder affecting approximately 1% of the population.  When a person with celiac disease eats gluten an immune-mediated response causes damage to the small intestines and interferes with absorption of nutrients from food.  Therefore, the only treatment for celiac disease is following a gluten-free diet.  Over time if left untreated, celiac disease can lead to an increase risk for anemia, osteoporosis, nutritional deficiencies, skin disorders and other health problems.

People with other autoimmune disorders, in particular type 1 diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis and thyroid disease, are at increased risk for celiac disease.  Unfortunately, it may take as long as 11 years to correctly be diagnosed with celiac disease.  By being aware of the symptoms of celiac disease and discussing with your doctor to screen for celiac disease if you have another high risk autoimmune disorder, this time frame can possibly be decreased.

Symptoms for Celiac Disease
• Stomach pain, gas, constipation  and/or diarrhea
• Change in mood
• Weight loss
• Slowed growth in children
• An itchy, blistering skin rash

Following a Gluten-free Diet
A gluten-free diet involves not consuming gluten, a storage protein found in wheat, barley, and rye.  Most breads, pastas, breakfast cereals, baked goods and crackers have gluten.  In addition, hidden sources of gluten are found in foods such as soups, sauces, and gravies.  During recent times the gluten-free diet has become somewhat of a fad diet.  Ironically, this diet could lead to nutritional deficiencies and weight gain because many gluten-free products are made with highly processed, unenriched flours and added fat and sugar.  Therefore, it is strongly recommended that a person diagnosed with celiac disease seek nutrition counseling by a registered dietitian.  Eating well on a gluten free diet is possible.  Aim for eating gluten-free whole grains, choose enriched or fortified  gluten-free grains, cook with less fat, and eat more fiber rich and calcium rich foods.  Lastly, cross contamination is a major concern and food handling techniques is crucial in your own kitchen and when dining away from your home.

To find more information about celiac disease and the gluten-free diet, check these sites out:
• Celiac Disease Foundation ( http://celiacdiseasefoundation.org/ )
• National Digestive Diseases Information (http://digestive.niddk.nih.gov/ddiseases/pubs/celiac/ )
• Shelley Case, RD  (http://www.glutenfreediet.ca/ )

Related articles:

  • FDA Defines Gluten-Free for Food Labeling
    By: Jill Nowak, RD, CDE, registered dietitian at CHOC Children’s Gluten-Free Labeling of Foods On August 2, 2013, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a long awaited final rule defining “gluten-free” ...
  • Wheat Alternative Carbohydrates & Grains
    If your child’s allergist has suggested a wheat-free diet, there are a variety of grain and carbohydrate alternatives. It is important when choosing alternatives to include some whole grains because ...

Good Nutrition: As Close As Your Plate!

By: Caroline Steele, MS, RD, CSP, IBCLC, clinical nutrition and lactation services manager at CHOC Children’s

For almost 100 years, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has been developing educational tools to provide nutrition information and help Americans make healthier food choices.  The original 1916 guide has been updated and reinvented over the years as our knowledge of nutrition and cultural influences have changed.  You may be most familiar with the Food Guide Pyramid which was introduced in 1992 and has served as a nutritional resource for almost 20 years.

Now the next generation food guide from the USDA is available!  MyPlate was unveiled on June 2, 2011 by First Lady Michelle Obama and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack.  The intent of MyPlate is to prompt consumers to think about “building a healthy plate at meal times.”  MyPlate will make it easier to put nutrition recommendations into practice by focusing on one meal at a time.

Eating healthy can seem complicated.  There is so much nutrition information available and so many food choices that actually deciding what to put on your dinner plate can be daunting and feel time consuming.  MyPlate makes it easy.  No matter how busy you are, one quick look at your plate can show you if you are getting the variety you need to stay healthy.

Compare the foods on your plate with the MyPlate icon.  How does it compare?  Are there food groups that you should be eating more of?  Less of?  All foods fit into a healthy diet—it’s just a matter of balance.

Some hints for a healthier table:

Balance Calories
• Enjoy your food, but eat less.
• Avoid oversized portions.

Foods to Increase
• Make half your plate fruits and vegetables.
• Choose whole grains whenever possible.
• Switch to fat-free or low fat (1%) milk.
• Choose lean sources of protein such as lean meats, chicken, fish, and beans.

Foods to Reduce
• Compare labels for processed foods such as canned soups and frozen meals; choose those with lower amounts of sodium (salt).
• Drink water instead of sugary drinks.

Make it fun and use MyPlate as a family!  Have kids draw the MyPlate icon then compare it to their own plates.  Getting children involved in mealtimes and food choices can help them be healthier and make better nutrition decisions as they get older.

So dig in!  Good nutrition and healthy eating are as close as your plate.

Where can I get more information?
Go to MyPlate.gov  for more information, interactive tools, and sample meals.

Visit eatright.org, the website of the American Dietetic Association for information on a variety of topics including healthy weight loss, nutrition for life, and food safety.