Celiac Sprue Disease

Celiac sprue disease, once thought to be a aryan disease, people of colour from third world origins are now being diagnosed more and more with this auto-immune disorder.

Technically speaking, Celiac's Disease, formerly known as Celiac's Sprue or Non-Tropical Sprue, is a disease of the auto-immune system. Sufferers of this illness are unable to cope with the damage done to their lower intestine by the proteins in wheat and its cousins (gluten) and they suffer a series of progressively debilitating symptoms (diahhrea, bloating, gas, hair loss or breakage, muscles aches or cramps, fatigue to name a few). The villi in the lower intestine are responsible for the absorption of nutrients and vitamins and therefore, sufferers of Celiac's may eat very well, but actually be starving to death. Many undiagnosed sufferers may have resultant illnesses like scurvy - an illness brougth on by a deficiency of Vitamin C.

Traditionally it has been very rare for those of ethnic origins to be diagnosed with Celiac's. People from other countries, especially third world nations, were not as dependent on wheat as the major grain in their diet and so did not develop Celiac's. Now that many minorities have come to accept the standard North American fare, more and more people of colour are being diagnosed with that "white" disease. This may be especially true for those who are reliant on fast food meals, sandwiches and bakery goods.

There is no drug treatment, and no cure for Celiac's. If the auto-immune system has come to recognize gluten as an invader, the patient will not be able to turn that around. Maintenance, on a totally gluten-free diet will be the watchword of the years to come.

There is, however, life after diagnosis though. Celiac sufferers now make up something close to ten percent of the population of Canada and the US, and many companies are coming to recognize that those who need gluten-free foods are a force to be reckoned with in the market place. Of course, some of those companies have simply jumped on the band wagon for the sake of being there, but others, usually staffed by Celiac's themselves or parents and relatives of Celiac's, are becoming more and more numerous.

One of the hardest things for most Celiac's, is coming to the realization that much of their food will now have to be prepared from scratch at home. Companies, like Imagine Foods, have produced a line of gluten-free foods, (often dairy-free as well) which include prepared soups, rice cream bars, puddings and more all based on their popular replacement for cow milk - Rice Dream. Others, like Pamela's Cookies, have made both gluten-free for the Celiac's and Wheat-free for the allergy sufferer.

Education is the most important key to health in the life of the Celiac. One must come to the place where chemical names for food components roll of the tongue and where the first two syllables of a multi-syllabic word can indicate whether a food is safe or not. Practise will make perfect and the Celiac must become a thorough and very careful label reader.

As is the problem with allergies to foods, many companies have proprietary rights on the recipes for their products and so are safeguarded by federal laws into not disclosing their ingredients. Ambiguous names like modified food starch, hydrolyzed plant protein and the generic starch hide huge dietary pitfalls for the Celiac sufferer and can mean the difference between healthy and sick. As well, while companies are coming to accept that food allergies and auto-immune disorders like Celiac's are very prevalent, those from outside North America are not as well moderated and can list ingredients like soy sauce without detailing the composition of that ingredient (many soy sauces contain wheat as part of the distilling process).

On top of these considerations, most Celiacs find that they suffer other food intolerances as well. Damage to the stomach often makes it impossible for the Celiac to digest or tolerate products made from milk, eggs and a host of other foods. For some lucky few, once the villi have regenerated and the lower intestine has healed, tolerance for dairy and other foods may return, but the ability to tolerate even a taste of wheat is gone for good.

If the Celiac must consider dairy ingredients on labels as well, it becomes a much bigger challenge and many will often opt out of prepared foods altogether. It might be well for the Celiac to acquaint him- or herself with the kosher labeling practises. These marks on food labels are standardized and certified by the Jewish community to indicate foods which contain dairy or which are made on production lines which also produce dairy-containing foods. For example, the company which produces school sized drink boxes, also produces the Yohoo chocolate milk drink on the same line - thus running the risk that at least some of the juices might have dairy contamination if they are run after the milk ones.

So, while Celiac's may be on the rise, and is now affecting more and more people of ethnic background, it is a manageable condition and is able to be successful kept under control through the use of strict dietary regime. Learning about the condition and its control is the best way for a person, no matter their ethnic background, to stay healthy as a Celiac.

Below is a recipe for cookies made with rice flour. Rice, corn, soy, quinoa, millet and several varieties of bean flours will be available to replace the wheat flour no longer useful to the Celiac.

Old Fashioned Rice Flour and Molasses Cookies

makes 2 doz cookies (1 in in diameter)

1 cup rice flour

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/3 teaspoon baking soda

1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1 tablespoon sugar

1/3 cup molasses or corn syrup

3 tablespoons melted margarine

1/2 teaspoon GF vanilla

1 lemon, juice and zest

3 - 5 tablespoons of water

Sift all the dry ingredients together. This helps to lift the flours. Add syrup, margarine and vanilla, juice and zest of the lemon, and enough water to make a thick, drop cookie dough. Drop onto a greased cookie sheet. Bake at 325 degrees F for 20 - 30 minutes.

Store in a covered container as these cookies will go hard quickly.

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