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  • Kelly Carter
    Kelly Carter

    How to Help a Celiac

    Reviewed and edited by a celiac disease expert.

      When someone with celiac disease consumes gluten, the villi will be damaged and it can take up to 2 years for the villi to recover.


    Caption: Image: CC BY-SA 2.0--russteaches

    Celiac.com 10/04/2019 - This is an article for friends and family to help them understand celiac disease and how they can help you.

    I understand someone in your life has just been diagnosed with celiac disease. It means their lives will change dramatically and you as part of their life should offer support. In this article, I'm going to briefly explain what celiac is and how you can help in the most basic ways.

    Celiac disease is an autoimmune disease of the small intestine. Food is broken down into nutrients in the stomach and absorbed into the body in the small intestine. There are microscopic finger-like projections called "villi" in the small intestine that absorb the food. In celiac disease, these villi are damaged and cannot absorb nutrients.

    Celiac disease is the only autoimmune disease with a known trigger. The trigger is gluten. Gluten is a protein found in wheat, rye, and barley. When gluten is in the small intestine, the body misunderstands that gluten is a good nutrient and mounts an attack on the villi to stop the absorption of gluten. Thus leading to the damage evident in celiac disease.

    Currently there is no medicine to treat celiac disease, and once diagnosed, the loved one will always have it. It cannot be outgrown. Celiac is not caused by Roundup and has been around since 2000 BC.

    When someone with celiac disease consumes gluten, the villi will be damaged and it can take up to 2 years for the villi to recover. If left untreated, it can cause weight loss, malnutrition, failure to thrive in children, and even a specific intestinal lymphoma that is often fatal.

    One sixty-fourth of a slice of bread is enough to set off the autoimmune reaction in a celiac sufferer. So even the smallest amount of gluten is dangerous. It is a protein so it cannot be burned off of grills or pans.

    Now, for the good news, a gluten free diet is easier than you think and can be easy to manage. (I'm envisioning this going to friends or family that live outside your home. You've got to manage your home yourself.)

    The whole objective would be to keep your guest or family member with celiac safe from getting sick. Aluminum foil and plain foods are your best friend. Put aluminum foil between any surface that may have touched gluten at any point in the last six months and the food you will be cooking. Also, put aluminium foil between the counter top or cutting board and any food you will be serving.

    If cooking both a gluten and gluten-free meal, simply wash your hands with soap after touching the gluten item.

    Regarding seasonings and marinades, please know that salt and pepper and no marinades are safest. Marinades are tricky because many contain soy sauce are aren't gluten-free. Also, soy sauce contains gluten, and luckily there are gluten-free versions available.

    Regarding vegetables or sides, roasting, grilling with aluminum foil, or boiling are all safe cooking methods. Salads dressings with complex ingredient lists are too complicated to go into here, but to start out just stick with a baked potato or rice.

    New condiments, condiments from squeeze bottles, and a new stick of butter is best and safest. If you can see a crumb, then the whole thing is unsafe for someone with celiac disease.

    Finally, the celiac sufferer is not trying to make your life more difficult. They are trying to stay safe while eating. We eat 3-4 meals a day, every day.

    Put yourself in their shoes. Imagine being afraid that every morsel of food put into your mouth could make you sick. Now you have to go to someone's house that doesn't understand or even makes fun of this disease. It is anxiety inducing. Please answer the celiac friend's millionth question because they are just trying to stay healthy!

    I hope this helps!


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    I have celiac and have been gluten free for five years. I don’t understand why you mentioned salt and pepper not being safe. And about the grill. Gluten burns off quickly, all food does. I would say to scrape it just to be sure. But where do you get six months from ? Or to know for sure split your grill in half and keep one area gluten free. I would think foil would catch fire. Then when you started talking about foods it wasn’t clear either. I think this article was confusing. And I know gluten free. 

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    I have a gluten problem as well as dairy problem and and egg problem tummy does not like them been like this for along time in the past year I found out about gluten bring the number on problem but still trying to work out the hard parts of staying away from gluten,dairy and eggs. But I go day by day and still train to add protein in diet but to much and lots of bathroom time. But still a work in progress.😊

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  • About Me

    I was diagnosed with Celiac in 2012 and have been gluten free ever since.  I live in Atlanta with my husband and two medium sized children.  I run a blog at FatCeliac.net that covers real life issues with celiac disease, upcoming drug trials, and try to be a reliable source of information for the celiac community.

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