Celiac disease affects the immune system. For those who suffer from the disease, when the protein gluten is digested, it causes damage to the small intestine and prevents nutrient absorption. Gluten is found in a whole host of foods, like those containing wheat, barley, and rye. When someone with celiac disease eats foods containing gluten, the body can react with dangerous side effects, such as chronic diarrhea, which can further rob the body of essential nutrients. These nutrient deficiencies are thought to be the cause for earlier menopause in women with celiac disease.
Early menopause is not the only new finding in regards to undiagnosed celiac disease in women. The same studies have found that the rate of miscarriage and premature birth was higher among those with untreated celiac disease.
The positive news regarding these new studies is that those who were diagnosed with the disease and began a gluten-free diet improved significantly. Not only were menopause symptoms improved, but it was found that reproduction functions improved as well.
Physicians are concluding that low nutrient levels, particular reproductive problems, and early signs of menopause should lead to a simple blood test for celiac disease. These tests can easily determine if the patient should begin treatment, which is eating a gluten-free diet. Thankfully, this is easier to do than it was in previous years.
While simple diet changes like replacing wheat products with easy to find corn or rice products is a good first step, most grocery stores now have labels on the shelf indicating if processed and packaged foods are gluten-free. Chex cereal even ran TV ads exclusively advertising the fact that many of their boxed cereals are safe for gluten-free dieters.
There are still many gray areas for the gluten-free, as many products may not naturally contain gluten, but are processed in a facility that produces other items containing gluten. This forces the consumers to have to research and read labels closely to avoid contact. However, celiac disease no longer means one has to exclusively shop at the pricey health food stores or make everything from complete scratch.
It’s not news that the food we put in our body effects much more than our appetite. For those struggling with the issue of early menopause and reproductive problems, it’s refreshing to know that the treatment may be as simple as going gluten-free.
June 30th, 2011