Q. My son’s girlfriend has celiac disease. She will be coming to visit for a long weekend next month, and I’m at a loss for how to accommodate her needs. What exactly is celiac disease and which foods should we avoid and which should we serve?

A. Celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder in which the body does not tolerate gluten. Gluten can be found in foods containing wheat, barley and rye, and the only current treatment for celiac disease is a lifelong adherence to a gluten-free diet.

It is estimated that 1 in 133 Americans have celiac disease, so it is likely you know someone with celiac disease. Eighty-three percent of those with celiac disease are estimated to be undiagnosed or misdiagnosed, which is why bringing awareness to this disease is so important. Celiac disease is a genetic condition, so people with family members who have celiac disease are at a higher risk of developing the condition.

There are more than 300 known symptoms of celiac disease! The most common symptoms include gastrointestinal issues, anemia, fatigue, itchy skin rash, depression, joint pain, infertility and delayed growth in children. If you have symptoms of celiac disease, it is best to see your doctor to determine or rule out a diagnosis. It is especially important to do this before removing gluten from your diet, as the disease cannot be detected without the presence of gluten.

What is gluten? Gluten is a protein found in wheat, barley and rye. A gluten-free diet consists of foods without gluten. Luckily, many foods are naturally gluten-free, including fruit, vegetables, meat, fish, poultry and dairy products. For baked goods, you can use flour alternatives like rice flour, almond flour, tapioca flour, potato flour to make your favorite foods gluten-free. Consuming even a very small amount of gluten can cause damage and symptoms to a person with celiac disease, and anyone suffering from celiac disease needs to avoid cross-contamination with gluten when foods are being prepared.

If you have questions about a gluten-free diet, connect with your local supermarket dietitian for education and product solutions.

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