What is Celiac disease
Celiac disease is a reaction to the proteic component of gluten. To be celiac, it is necessary to have a genetic predisposition and the best known characteristic of this disease is an intolerance that gives abdominal pain. The presence of these effects is chronic and not “una tantum”, then it can be different from person to person causing malaise and pain. Often there are individuals who only after many years discover they are celiacs.
This intolerance has only been discovered in recent years, unlike diseases known for centuries, and it is thought that the number of people with celiac disease will increase over time, simply because many people still do not know they are suffering from it. Furthermore when we eat we take not only the components of the food, but also many additives and other contaminants, which although are not toxic (many of them are legally used and are not harmful), help the body to develop reactions to gluten.
This autoimmune disease is genetically related to the genetic predisposition of combining HLA DQ2 and HLA DQ8 genes. It is basically written in the genetic code of people and manifests itself in a direct relationship with the intake of wheat, a food containing gluten.
The European situation
We analyzed a dozen dataset to see the numbers of celiac disease. Today in Europe about 1% of the population
suffers from celiac disease with peaks of 3% in the Scandinavian countries and very low levels below 0.5% in Germany, but the numbers vary from country to country and even from zone to zone: for example in Turkey ranges from 0.3 to 2.5%. If the sources agree on the incidence of celiac disease in relation to the population, all the bodies that perform research are not able to quantify the real numbers, because many people today suffering from this problem do not know they are celiacs and every year thousands of new people become aware of the disease. It is thought that over 70% of people with celiac disease do not know that they suffer from this syndrome.
Food and dangers
Although celiac disease can involve processes of different organs and systems, it is caused by foods containing gluten. The main allergic symptoms are:
- abdominal pain
- intestinal disorders
- skin itching
- skin rash
The simplest solutions
In Italy since 2014 it is mandatory to include and highlight allergens in food labels, but this may not be enough to have gluten-free food. Imagine for example a restaurant that prepares normal dishes using excellent gluten-free ingredients in the kitchen: to be gluten free it is not enough to prepare the new dishes using gluten-free ingredients, because the whole kitchen (worktop, crockery, etc.) could be contaminated by gluten, involuntarily spread in the preparation of normal meals. This is why, a true gluten-free restaurant should have two separate areas to ensure gluten-free food for the celiac customer are cooked without “contamination”.
Surely this syndrome is much less risky than others and does not compromise the life of a person, however it is a warning to rethink the lifestyle and pay more attention to what we eat everyday. Obviously the first step is the choice of food, that must be really gluten free and excellent in quality, then comes the cleaning of the environment (which should not be contaminated with gluten), crockery and anything that potentially comes into contact with food. Finally, it is necessary to rethink recipes and the way of cooking.
Many pages on the web are dedicated to celiac disease and you can find on the official websites of the various European health ministries all the statistics updated every year. For this reason we will not talk about the epidemiological aspects. However, many people who are used to buy on the Italian Food Joy sites have send their needs: for this reason, the Gluten Free page has been activated (for now only on italianfoodjoy.com) which is updated by inserting new foods, but just when the producers declare they have products for celiacs.
A second aspect is the human one: every person, when he discovers to suffer for a disease goes through several phases until he/she learns how to handle it as best as possible. If celiac disease is not a serious illness (if we think to desesases that killed thousand of people, such as smallpox, typhus, plague, aids), but it still requires changes and a new lifestyle. Therefore we have decided to dedicate a special section of Italian Food Joy to bring witnesses and stories of those who have already successfully passed through the phases of change.
In this wa ywe hope to help people in need, with a positive view of food, thanks to the healthy and balanced lifestyle that can be adopted with foods offered by Italian Food Joy.