The number of gluten-free diets and products available might make celiac disease and gluten sensitivity seem like a fad. However, these are serious and complex conditions that deserve to be understood and demystified.
Since May is Celiac Disease Awareness Month, we asked a few questions to Édith Lalanne, Executive Director of the Quebec Foundation for Celiac Disease and Other Gluten-Induced Diseases, to dispel the myths surrounding gluten.
Statistically, it is said that 1% of the population lives with celiac disease. If we combine this figure with those who are allergic to wheat and who experience gluten sensitivity, then we reach a prevalence of 3% and 6%.
Disease, allergy and sensitivity
When talking about celiac disease and other gluten diseases, terminology is very important. To better understand what it is all about, Ms. Lalanne explains: “Celiac disease and wheat allergy areappeal to the immune system. The latter believes that gluten is an enemy and he gets carried away, attacking the small intestine. It is a physical reaction which, in the case of wheat allergy, can lead to anaphylactic shock. »
On the other hand, non-celiac gluten sensitivity (commonly referred to as gluten intolerance) has nothing to do with the immune system. It is more like irritable bowel syndrome. "This sensitivity is still poorly known and for the moment, there is no diagnosis", specifies Ms. Lalanne.
If there is no diagnosis to detect non-celiac gluten sensitivity, how do you determine if an individual has it? “In fact, doctors proceed by elimination, underlines the expert. Since it is possible to establish celiac disease and wheat allergy with certainty, once these two eventualities and the other avenues have been ruled out, a verdict of non-celiac gluten sensitivity is issued. »
Celiac disease, wheatallergy, and non-celiac gluten sensitivity, affect all individuals of all ages, male or female. Due to its genetic nature, celiac disease can have effects in very young children (2-3 years old).
The only possible treatment
Many of the symptoms of celiac disease resemble those of irritable bowel. For this reason, self-diagnoses should be avoided; it is better to consult a doctor. Through a blood test anda biopsy, the latter will be able to refer you to the only possible treatment: a strict diet.
No matter the age at which the verdict falls, the important thing is the care. The sooner the diet is changed, the sooner the benefits of a gluten-free diet will be felt. “By ceasing to consume gluten, the intestinal villi return to almost normal,” says Ms. Lalanne. Of course, each person is different; so is its recovery.
“No one is cured of celiac disease, wheat allergy or non-celiac gluten sensitivity,” says Ms. Lalanne. Alleviating symptoms and increasing quality of life requires a gluten-free diet, which includes eliminating all sources of cross-contamination. This is very restrictive, not only for the person who suffers from celiac disease or gluten sensitivity, but for the whole family.”
Can we go to a restaurant?
If you have celiac disease or another gluten-induced illness, can you eat out? Can we trust those who present a so-called gluten-free menu? On this point, Ms. Lalanne says that for the moment, the number of really safe establishments are few. “Asking questions is the best prevention. Try to see if they pay attention to thecross contamination. Their answers will confirm whether or not you can trust them,” she says.
“Very soon, in Quebec, we will see the appearance of Gluten Free Food certification,” says Ms. Lalanne. This certification, currently available in Toronto, will be awarded to restaurants that meet all the standards necessary for a gluten-free designation.
Symptoms of celiac disease
- Recurrent diarrhea
- Weight loss or overweight
- Abdominal pain
- Stunting (in children)
- Muscle cramps
- Unexplained neurological disorder
- Infertility, miscarriages
Warning, these symptoms can be similar to other diseases and those of irritable bowel. It is best to see a doctor if you think you have celiac disease.
Source FQMC. ORG.
Whether we are talking about celiac disease, wheat allergy or non-celiac gluten sensitivity, all of these conditions are not a whim. They are extremely painful and disabling for those who suffer from them. One of the keys to ensuring a brighter future for them is information.
In addition to the issue of treatment: strict gluten-free diet for life, celiac people face an inequity forreimbursement for their treatment. Despite the current situation, Cœliaque Québec cannot ignore this reality which has lasted far too long. Denis Trudel, spokesperson for Cœliaque Québec, MP for Longueuil-Saint-Hubert and actor shares his discomfort with this inequality in the video below.