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Mission: Nutrition

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Happy World Diabetes Day: Diabetes and Celiac Disease

Posted by Lisa Peterson -

Happy World Diabetes Day! I've grown up around syringes, glucometers, test strips, cotton balls, and antiseptic wipes, since both my late grandmother and my older sister suffer from type one diabetes (juvenile diabetes). Type one diabetes is where the pancreas does not produce the hormone insulin, making it impossible for the body to control the amount of glucose (sugar) in the blood stream. Similar to other chronic diseases, a majority of Americans today know either a family member or friend who suffers from diabetes. Diabetes does not have to be a death sentence, the disease can be controlled with a nutritious diet and maintaining an active lifestyle.

Recently, my sister was also diagnosed with celiac disease. Only one percent of Americans have celiac disease and 10% of diabetics. Celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder where the ingestion of gluten causes damage to the small intestine affecting the absorption of nutrients. Gluten intolerance does not cause damage to digestive organs, and symptoms such as gassiness, abdominal discomfort, and diarrhea pass once the gluten is out the body. The only treatment for celiac disease is completely eliminating gluten from the diet. The addition of celiac disease with diabetes provides an added challenge for my sister to maintain a stable blood glucose level. Starchy carbohydrates such as bread often contain gluten, a protein found in wheat, rye, and barely, which can typically help her maintain a stable blood glucose level for longer periods of time. Removing gluten from the diet can cause additional nutritional deficiencies in regards to minerals such as magnesium, folate, iron, and zinc that are typically found in whole grain products where gluten is present.

So what can my sister eat? There are still plenty of ways to get those necessary minerals she is missing out on in gluten products.

Gluten free nutritional products that contains additional minerals found in whole grain products includes, but not limited to:

  • Beans (navy, kidney, black, pinto, etc.)
  • Corn based products such as tortillas
  • Soy
  • Flax
  • Potatoes and Sweet Potatoes
  • Brown or wild rice
  • Buckwheat
  • Tapioca
  • Tamari (alt. to soy sauce)

Grocery stores also offer labeled gluten free bread products, but read the nutrition facts label as they can have higher amounts of carbohydrates than a whole wheat option. Be sure to check with a physician to see if they would recommend supplements. Because every person is different, it's essential to be taking supplements that tailor specifically to dietary needs. Remember to monitor blood glucose changes when trying new foods. Not all the foods listed above will have the same effect on blood glucose levels.

For holidays, I've been the main cook since I was 16. From menu planning to serving the meal, I commandeer the whole process for my small family! For thanksgiving this year, I'm lucky enough to be spending it with my sister and brother-in-law in southern Minnesota. Since my sister's diagnosis, she has given me an additional challenge of gluten free menu planning! A challenge I happily accepted. Keep up with my blog and see what I'm up to next week, I may be trying a gluten substitute in a recipe!

Come join me in the New Year for programs focused on discussing the fad and facts of gluten in Christian, Jersey, Macoupin and Montgomery Counties! Watch for times and dates on our main page: The links below provide great recipes and baking information on living gluten-free:

Colorado State University Extension does a great job of discussing gluten free baking methods:

They also cover helpful tips for menu planning, shopping for gluten free products, and eating out gluten free:

University of Kentucky has some great additional recipes, even a spaghetti squash one that is perfect for this time of year:

Additional helpful websites on diabetes and celiac disease include:

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