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  1. Celiac.com 01/31/2006 – On Tuesday, January 10, 2006, federal authorities raided French Meadow Bakery in Minneapolis, MN, and seized more that 30,000 loaves of spelt and kamut bread and accused the company of mislabeling it as "wheat-free". According to U.S. Attorney Thomas Heffelfinger spelt and kamut share common proteins with wheat that can be just as dangerous to those who are allergic to wheat. French Meadow Bakery considers both grains to be safe alternatives to wheat, and claims that it has only received a single complaint of an allergic reaction during its 16 years in business. According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration the bakery was given plenty of forewarning, as it was told last April that it needed to change its labels and not use "wheat-free" on any products that contain spelt or kamut—but the bakery failed to comply. Wheat is considered one of the top 10 allergens, and allergies to it can be life threatening—especially to allergic children. According to the new Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act, foods that contain spelt or kamut cannot carry "wheat-free" or "wheat-alternative" labels. Heffelfinger believes that mislabeling it will create a serious health risk for a significant portion of the population. French Meadow Bakery has agreed to change its labels and has submitted the revised ones to the Food and Drug Administration for approval, however, on its Web site they have the following statements: "In the meantime the packaging changes have become a challenge for us and several other companies as to whether spelt is wheat or is not...We feel it is more important to look at the nutritional and digestive properties since it (spelt) is not a hybrid of what we call wheat today...We are not alone in this, after reviewing our fellow bakers Web sites, (Rudis Bakery and Food for Life) we learned that they too call Spelt a wheat alternative...Our intention has not and is not to risk the health of our valued customers...As an example of this, we state on our White Spelt and Cinnamon Raisin Spelt products a warning: CELIACS NOTE: SPELT CONTAINS GLUTEN." Celiac.com has also just learned that Purity Foods, a major spelt producer, has applied for an exemption from the Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act and in it claim that spelt is not wheat, and that some people who are allergic to wheat can tolerate spelt. However, according to Donald D. Kasarda, Former Research Chemist for the United States Department of Agriculture: The scientific name for bread wheat is Triticum aestivum var. Aestivum—the first part of the name defines the genus (Triticum) and the second part, the species (aestivum). Species falling in the genus Triticum are almost certain to be harmful to celiac patients...Some Triticum species of current concern include Triticum aestivum var. spelta (common names include spelt or spelta), Triticum turgidum var. polonicum (common names include Polish wheat, and, recently, Kamut), and Triticum monococcum var. monococcum (common names include einkorn and small spelt). I recommend that celiac patients avoid grain from these species. Also, given their very close relationship to bread and durum wheats, I think it is unlikely that these grains would be safe for those with classical allergic responses to wheat. The companys bread will remain frozen until the case is settled, and Heffelfinger has indicated that none of the products already on food store shelves across the country will be recalled because the bread would likely exhaust its shelf life by the time a recall could be issued. Celiac.com, however, believes that this issue is settled—spelt and kamut are forms of wheat and those with celiac disease and/or wheat allergy should completely avoid them—there are just too many alternative grains out there to take such health risks. We can only hope that Purity Foods application for exemption will be met with strong, scientifically-supported opposition.
  2. Celiac.com 02/26/2007 - Celiac disease is an inherited autoimmune disorder. Even though celiac disease is genetic, and generally runs in families, it can sometimes be triggered by, or become active for the first time after, surgery, pregnancy, childbirth, viral infection, or severe emotional stress. People with untreated celiac disease typically have abnormally high levels of associated antibodies including anti-gliadin, anti-endomysium and anti-tissue transglutaminase. The presence of these antibodies is caused by an immune system reaction to the presence of gluten in the body. When people with celiac disease eat foods or use products containing gluten, the response from their immune system damages the tiny, fingerlike protrusions lining the small intestine, called villi. Properly working villi allow nutrients from food to be absorbed into the bloodstream. When villi are damaged, vital nutrients go unabsorbed. In addition to vitamin deficiencies and their associated maladies, left untreated, villi damage can result in full-blown malabsorption, accompanied by nerve damage, wasting, and organ distress and failure. Until fairly recently doctors believed celiac disease was quite rare, and only affected about 1 in 5,000 people. It was also thought of a disease that mostly affected babies and very young children. Recent studies, however, put the estimate of celiac sufferers at 1 in 133 people in the United States. Most people with celiac disease still dont know that they have it. More alarmingly, many experts believe that Non-Celiac gluten intolerance could be upwards of 15 times more prevalent than full-blown celiac disease. According to some experts up to 15% of people worldwide—a full 1 in 7—are gluten-sensitive or gluten-intolerant. These people often test negative or inconclusive for Celiac Disease, but can still suffer the same symptoms and long-term problems when they ingest gluten. Signs and Symptoms of Celiac Disease Its very important to diagnose both celiac disease and Non-Celiac gluten intolerance early before any serious damage to the intestine occurs. However, both can be difficult to diagnose because their symptoms are easily confused with other intestinal disorders, such as irritable bowel syndrome or lactose intolerance, thus many people may never discover that they have some level of gluten sensitivity. Some common general symptoms of celiac disease are diarrhea, abdominal pain and bloating, and weight loss. People with the disease may feel overly tired, and they may also be irritable or depressed. Some have skin rashes and mouth sores. Teens with undiagnosed celiac disease may go through puberty late. Symptoms of Celiac Disease can vary greatly from individual to individual, and even among family members. Symptoms may occur in the digestive system, or in other parts of the body. For example, one person might have diarrhea and abdominal pain, while another person may be irritable or depressed. In fact, irritability is one of the most common symptoms in children. Obviously, since so much growth and development crucial to human well being takes place in infancy and childhood, and since so much of that development hinges on proper nutritional absorption, any condition which hinders absorption is especially important diagnose and treat in the earliest possible stages. More specific symptoms of celiac disease may include one or more of the following: • behavioral changes • bone or joint pain • chronic diarrhea • delayed growth • failure to thrive in infants • fatigue • gas • infertility, recurrent miscarriage • itchy skin rash called dermatitis herpetiformis • missed menstrual periods (often because of excessive weight loss) • muscle cramps • osteoporosis, osteopenia • pale, foul-smelling, or fatty stool • pale sores inside the mouth, called aphthous • recurring abdominal bloating and pain • seizures • tingling numbness in the legs (from nerve damage) • tooth discoloration or loss of enamel • unexplained anemia (a low count of red blood cells causing fatigue) • weight loss / weight gain Screening for Celiac Disease A simple blood test can reveal high levels of anti-gliadin, anti-endomysium and anti-tissue transglutaminase antibodies, and is often used for initial detection among people who are most likely to have the disease, and who may need further testing. For anyone with a family history of celiac disease or of disorders such as thyroid disease, anemia of unknown cause, type I diabetes or other immune disorders or Downs syndrome, doctors may suggest routine screening. Otherwise, patients are generally screened on a case-by-case basis according to individual symptoms. If a blood test for gluten antibodies is positive, your doctor will likely order a biopsy to confirm a diagnosis of celiac disease. A biopsy is where your doctor microscopically examines a small sample of intestinal tissue, looking for celiac associated damage to the small intestine. To get the sample, your doctor inserts an endoscope (a thin, flexible tube) into your mouth, down your esophagus and into your stomach and small intestine to take a small sample of intestinal tissue to look for damage to the villi (the tiny, hair-like projections in the walls the small intestine that absorb vitamins, minerals and other nutrients). Non-Celiac Gluten Intolerance Many people with celiac disease are still screened using antiquated methods. After a positive serology test a patient might be given a biopsy (or not—depending on how high their antibody levels are—again elevated antibodies may mean gluten sensitivity), however, the pathologist who interprets the samples may not use the latest Marsh classification system to make the diagnosis, or they may use it but classify the samples incorrectly, any of which can lead to a missed diagnosis. Most people with gluten intolerance will never get tested at all, and if they do their results often end up in the "inconclusive" or grey area for the reasons discussed above. Consequently this undiagnosed or inconclusive group of people may miss out on discovering the simple and drug-free remedy of a gluten-free diet which will lead to a dramatic recovery for those with symptoms (many people with celiac disease or Non Celiac gluten sensitivity do not have any symptoms). For those who end up in the grey area of inconclusive test results, an elimination diet may be the only method to determine their problem. Many people discover that they have gluten intolerance only after they eliminate it from their diet. The more symptomatic the patient, the more obvious it will be when they eliminate gluten. For those with little or no symptoms this method may not work. Most elimination diets also exclude other common food allergens for several weeks such as soy, cows milk, corn, nuts, etc., and then the items are slowly added back to the diet while the patient pays close attention to any symptoms. Treatments for Celiac Disease There is presently no cure for celiac disease or Non Celiac gluten sensitivity, however, totally eliminating gluten from the diet leads to a full recovery in most cases, thus a 100% gluten-free diet is the standard treatment for celiac disease. To manage the disease and prevent complications, its essential to avoid all foods that contain gluten. People with celiac disease must avoid all foods made with wheat, rye, or barley. Including types of wheat like durum, farina, graham flour, and semolina. Also, bulgur, kamut, kasha, matzo meal, spelt and triticale. Examples of products that commonly contain these include breads, breading, batter, cereals, cooking and baking mixes, pasta, crackers, cookies, cakes, pies and gravies, among others. It is also important to avoid oats, at least during initial treatment stages of a gluten-free diet, this is because the effects of oats on celiac patients are not fully understood, and wheat contamination in processing is common. Thus, its safe to eliminate oats at least until symptoms subside and their reintroduction into the diet can be fairly monitored and evaluated. Avoid processed foods that may contain hidden gluten. Wheat flour is commonly used in many processed foods as a thickener or a binder. The good news is that by avoiding gluten your small intestine can and will begin to heal. Fortunately, the gut can and usually does heal. The majority of celiac disease and gluten intolerant patients who go on a gluten free diet experience a significant reversal of all symptoms and intestinal damage within year, and most begin to feel better within in a few days. In patients with severe damage the healing process may take years, and may require eliminating other offending foods from their diets in addition to gluten. Because the genetic makeup that leads to gluten intolerance cant be altered, a persons immune system will continue to react to gluten whenever it is ingested and the symptoms and problems will return if a person with celiac disease starts eating gluten again. health writer who lives in San Francisco and is a frequent author of articles for Celiac.com.
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