Celiac disease causes permanent intolerance of gluten, a widespread disease that affects one percent of Italian population (however, only 20% of cases are diagnosed). To eliminate the symptoms, the only solution is to stay away from a gluten diet, a protein substance that is found in many foods, including cereals such as wheat barley, spelled, oats, rye and malt. Recently, there is an increase in the consumption of “gluten free” products so much that salons and fairs dedicated to food to reserve specific areas for foods that are consumed even by those who are not suffering from celiac disease.
We spoke with Dr. Stefania Setti, a medical nutritionist responsible for Outpatient Clinical Nutrition and Dietetics at Humanitas Gavazzeni.
Can a person get sick of celiac disease?
“No, one cannot get sick because celiac disease is a genetic disease that is present from birth. It is an intolerance, which unfortunately causes destruction of the villi of the small intestine, responsible for the absorption of nutrients, which causes gastrointestinal symptoms (feeling of fullness with abdominal distension, stomach pain, diarrhea) and, often, even dermatological effects (rashes, dermatitis, skin rashes). The only treatment to combat celiac disease is to eliminate gluten from your diet, which means not consuming many foods such as bread, pasta, pizza, and cookies.”
What can a person with celiac disease eat?
“Foods naturally free of gluten such as rice, buckwheat, millet, corn flour and potatoes. To avoid having to give up pasta, bread, pizza, and cookies that contain gluten, the food industry now provides “gluten free” products that are marked and can be found in pharmacies, specialty stores and supermarkets.”
The consumption of “gluten free” products is growing even among people who do not have celiac disease. May it be a good strategy for a healthy daily diet?
“There is no indication to eliminate gluten from your diet for people who are not really suffering from celiac disease. It is true that there are more and more people who suffer from “hypersensitivity to gluten” or tested negative for celiac disease but who have one or more symptoms. In this case the advice is to preferably consume naturally gluten-free foods rather than industrial “gluten free” products.”
Then there are the foods “contaminated” by gluten that are equally harmful for people with celiac disease
“Yes, there are foods that have been “contaminated” by gluten during preparation, as happens for example with the use of certain thickeners derived from wheat, or when eating outside the home in places that perfectly respected the rules of preparing gluten-free meals. You have to be really careful because if you simply take even a fraction of gluten, in celiac patients it can completely nullify the efforts made up to that point. The gluten-free diet can control the symptoms, but unfortunately, it does not cure the disease.”