Health Beat 9-1-2004

Against the Grain

Need another excuse to skip bread? Wheat allergy, or “celiac sprue” to the medical community, affects three million Americans, although most are unaware of it. That’s because the symptoms gas, cramping and weight loss often are mistaken for irritable bowel syndrome, according to the National Institutes of Health (
    Gluten from grains such as rye and barley can come in contact with the small intestine and trigger an allergic response, eroding the lining and damaging tissue. This in turn saps the body’s absorption of important nutrients, including calcium and iron, which leads to anemia, weight loss and osteoporosis.
    The only effective defense against celiac, say doctors, is a strict gluten-free diet. That could mean substituting wheat flour with potato, rice or soy flour. Also, sufferers must beware of sources of gluten such as additives, preservatives and even mouthwash. For more information, consult the National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse at