Did you just find out you are Celiac?
A lot of people have asked me about information that they could put in practice about celiac disease. Many people have absolutely no idea of what this condition is. Although on this website you will find a lot of information about it, this post will help you understand what being a celiac is and what you should and shouldn’t do.
If you are completely new at this (just as I was almost 10 years ago), you probably have no idea what celiac disease is and how it behaves. You will probably need to change your habits radically. You’ll need to be self consciouos and detached or else you’ll strugle a lot. I’ve been there.
I’ll try to explain it as brief and concise as I can. There are usually different circumstances that come together in order to make the celiac disease manifest itself.
There is a genetic aspect. It’s a predisposition that many have, but it doesn’t guarantee that the condition will manifest. There must always be a trigger. There are many factors that can trigger the disease, however in my experience, I could reduce them to two.
- Excesive ingest of foods with gluten
- Emotional triggers (it could be a traumatic event, attachments to certain emotions or attitudes). In my case, I did experience both aspects
What is Celiac disease?
It is an auto immune disorder. Whenever the intestins of a celiac get in touch with gliadins or glutenins (both gluten components), it considers them as harmful substances and so it generates intibodies that instead of destroying those substances, destroy the villi. When this happens, your intestines no longer have the hability to absorb the nutrients contained in the food you eat, which will cause different types of problems.
That is the popular explanation given by official medicine, however chinese medicine has a completely different view on the subject. According to chinese medicine, all the symptoms that occure with celiac disease could be considered as Spleen-Pancreas Qi deficiency.
Here is a list of common symptoms of celiac disease. Not every celiac will present all of them, however these symptoms could be an indication of possible celiac disease.
- Abdominal pain
- Lactose intolerance
- Chronic or occasional diarrhea
- Floating stools, bloody stools, fetid or greasy
- Nausea and vomiting
- Unexplained weight loss (although people may be overweight or not at the time of diagnosis).
- Decreased appetite
- Abdominal distention, inflation, gas, indigestion.
- Anemia: is one of the most common extraintestinal manifestations, and the most frequent initial clinical manifestation
- Bone diseases (osteoporosis, kyphoscoliosis, fracture)
- Pain in the bones and joints
- Shortness of breath due to anemia
- Easy bruising
- Dental enamel defects and discoloration
- Delayed growth in children
- Hair loss
- Hypoglycemia (low blood sugar)
- Mouth ulcers
- Nasal bleeding
- Short unexplained stature
- Skin disorders (dermatitis herpetiformis)
- General or abdominal swelling
- Deficiency of minerals or vitamins, single or multiple nutrients (such as iron, folate, vitamin K).
- Irritability and behavioral changes
- Muscle cramps
- Alterations in learning and behavior
- Delay of psychomotor development
- Ataxia and peripheral sensory neuropathy.
So now you have a very good idea of what celiac disease is. Here comes the though part: The recommended diet.
At first it may sound very simple: Avoid foods that contain gluten. The problem here is that in practice is not simple at all.
If you are already used to eat a 70% vegetarian and natural diet (no industrialized foods) then adjusting your diet will not be too hard. However if you are used, as most people are, to eat processed foods, then it will be a really hard change to do, because you will find limitations around every corner.
Remember: be self conscious and detached.
I’ll present a small list that includes large food groups that you should avoid.
Any food that contains wheat must be avoided like the plague.
Breads, torillas, pasta, cookies, crackers, and most cereals (Kellogs, Nestlé, Quakers and any others likes them).
Rye and barley also contain gluten so they must be avoided too.
These foods are easy to indentify. The problem is that gluten is used as a conservative or as a binder, which means most industrialized foods contain it.
Avoid brands like Knorr and Maggi, most of their products contain gluten. English and Soy sauce also contain it. If you like sushi, the soy sauce or black sauce they use there also contains it. If you wish to make your dishes more salty, don’t use those black sauces, use plain salt, or sea salt.
Forget about using industrialized seasonings, its better to use natural herbs.
Most sausages and hams contain gluten too, it’s better to avoid them.
Dehydrated fruits may also contain gluten. Anything that comes in indutrialized packaging can pontentially contain gluten and should be avoided.
Some cheeses could also contain gluten. Frozen foods like meat, fish, poultry, or breaded foods also contain gluten and should be avoided.
Here comes the celiacs nightmare: Cross contamination
Gluten comes from the latin glutinis which means a sticky substance or “glue”. This specific property of gluten is what makes it a nightmare, because it is sticky by nature. It means that it will adhere itself into whatever comes in contact with it. Gluten particles will stick into anything they touch, this is called cross contamination. This is the reason why so many foods that do not contain gluten in their natural state could contain it.
Lets take cereals as an example. The industrial process to get cereals in their packaging requires that all those cereals go through a special machine. Because of cost reduction, those machines don’t get stoped and cleaned after processing a type of cereal. Lets say for example that they process Korn flakes first, after they are done with them, they immediately process other type of cereal, so on and so forth. The problem here is that the sticky nature of gluten gets attached to the machines processing those cereals, and then it gets attached to the next cereals that are processed. This is cross contamination at its purest. This is the reason why so many foods that do not contain gluten in their natural state, once they pass through an industrialized process are not gluten free anymore.
This is the reason you find messages contained in the packages that say something like “This food is processed in machines that also process wheat”, or “It may contain wheat traces”. Whenever you read the caption “it may contain” it’s because it does. So avoid any food that contains a legend like this. As long as you stick to natural foods that you know their origin, you’ll be way safe. Lately I’ve seen a new variant of those captions, and it says something like this “Gluten free due to the origin of its ingredients” it means that although the ingredients of that specific product are gluten free, it is possible to have cross contamination, but they don’t express it openly.
Other important thing one must consider are GMOs. This is a little bit harder, but there is a link between glyphosate, a pesticide used on GMO crops and celiac desease, which I’ll talk about later.
I have one rule regarding what I eat and it is this: “If nature created it, you can trust it. If man made it, run away”.
This is why you should avoid packed foods as much as you can. Most of frozen vegetables also contain gluten. So avoid packed foods as much as you can, unless you are 100% sure that they are safe and gluten free.
So, the best advice I can give you when you are wondering if the food you are selecting is safe to eat is: when in doubt, avoid it.
Note: Gluten shoudn’t be confused with monosodium glutamate. Those are two completely different things, although both should be avoided.
But the problem of cross contamination doesn’t end there. Your domestic habits must be put in check too. It is obvious that you can’t eat pasta soup, or anything I have already mentioned, which means that your food must be prepared separately from the food the rest of your family will eat (unless their diet becomes gluten free too). For example you cannot use the same spoon to prepare a pasta soup and a gluten free soup without thoroughly washing it first. Whenever a food that contains gluten gets in touch with a gluten free one, by direct or indirect contact (by some utensil), the gluten free food will be now contaminated and will cause you harm.
This means that eating out becomes potentiallly dangerous, because you have no idea if they used any type of flavoring sauces to prepare your meal. You don’t know if for example the pans they used to prepare your meal were previously in contact with a gluten cotaining food, etc.
If you are having a celiac crisis, your best choice is to eat at home until you regain your balance. If you are just starting with this, even if you only eat at home you are bound to make mistakes. So if you are under a heavy celiac crisis, why risk it?
For me, the worst part of being celiac was not being able to drink beer and whiskey. Both should be avoided too.
One other thing you must understand is that if you are a celiac (and haven’t done anything I talk about on this website) you can’t cheat your diet. You can’t take little bits of gluten foods, because your health will get worse over time. Is not about gluten quantity but presence. At first your symptoms may not be so severe, but if you keep at it, they will get worse over time, to the point that even the smallest accidental intake, is enough to create a terrible reaction.
So as you can see there are a lot of things that a truly gluten free diet restricts. You may be asking, “So, what can I eat then?”
Everything I share here is product of my own experience through a long process of trial and error. The good news is that there is a lot of things you can eat that are delicious and way healthier. If you do this correctly your eating habits will improve notoriously and your quality of life will be much better.
You can eat:
Cereals (except wheat, rye and barley). I recommend eating whole rice, not refined or white rice.
Legumes, you can eat all you want as long as you are sure that they are not cross contaminated (been there done that). Try to get them fresh at your local market.
Fruits and vegetables: Anything and everything you want as long as they come fresh and not packed. Yellow fruits help a lot to speen-pancreas qi deficiency, although you shouldn’t only eat yellow fruits.
Nuts, peanuts, almonds, seeds, etc. Again, as long as you get them fresh and not cross contaminated. I wouldn’t buy them if they come already packaged, unless I’m 100% sure that they are not cross contaminated
Seaweed, you can eat all you want, they even help you regenerate your intestins faster.
Mushrooms, you can eat all you want as long as they are fresh and natural, not canned.
Meat, fish, poultry, eggs. As long as you get them fresh from the butcher shop or fish market, and not already packed.
Amaranth, its highly nutritious and helps a lot, again, as long as it’s not packed by an industrial process.
Ferments like kéfir, help a lot to regenerate your villi and have an overall digestive improvement.
Herbs and spices: As long as they are natural you can eat as much as you want. Ginger, basil, coriander, parsley, oregano, garlic, sesame, etc.
If you want bread, you may prepare your own corn bread, you may also use rice flour, chickpea flour, etc. It will be way healthier than anything you may buy outside.
Official medicine says that celiac deisease has no cure, but natural medicine which has been around for thousands of years says there is, although it may take time.
If you wish to develop your own dietary regime, I highly recommend this book http://amzn.to/2gsS2wN
I would also recommend that you practice any type of discipline that allows you to balance your body and mind. Something like Yoga or Tai Chi would be a very good choice and will bring you many benefits.
I wish ten years ago someone had told me everything I just told you right here. It took me several years to figure all this stuff out. You must consider that I’m from Mexico and here we have very little information about this condition. Don’t get discouraged, I know this may be a lot to take in, but now you know, which is a way better starting point than mine.