Celiac Disease

Understanding Celiac Disease

99% of people won’t give any thought to the amount wheat, barley, or rye in the food or beverages they consume. But for the 1% percent of people with celiac disease, also known as celiac sprue or gluten-sensitive enteropathy, staying alert is really important.

That’s because they’re allergic to gluten – a protein found in grains like wheat or barley – that can hurt the small intestine. When ignored or misdiagnosed, celiac disease can lead to some long-term health problems.

Celiac disease 101

The exact cause of celiac disease is not fully understood, but it is believed to be a combination of genetic and environmental factors. People with a family history of celiac disease are more likely to develop the condition. Other triggers include a viral infection, surgery, or significant emotional stress.

Celiac disease causes damage to the lining of the small intestine, making it hard to absorb nutrients. This can result in a range of symptoms, including:

  • Diarrhea
  • Abdominal pain
  • Bloating
  • Weight loss
  • Fatigue
  • Nausea and vomiting

In some cases, celiac disease can also lead to other health problems, such as anemia, osteoporosis, and infertility. It is considered an autoimmune disorder.


Children with celiac disease are more likely to have digestive problems than adults. They can also have additional symptoms like:

  • Swollen belly
  • Pale, foul-smelling stools
  • Delayed puberty
  • Damage to tooth enamel
  • Anemia
  • Irritability
  • Short stature
  • Neurological symptoms

See your doctor if your diarrhea or digestive discomfort persists for more than two weeks. See your child’s doctor if your child has foul-smelling, bulky stools, and a potbelly. Do not change diets until your doctor can test you or your child for an accurate diagnosis.


The most effective treatment for celiac disease is a strict gluten-free diet. This involves avoiding all foods that contain wheat, barley, and rye, as well as any products that may have come in contact with gluten during processing. This can be difficult, as gluten is often found in unexpected foods such as soy sauce, beer, and even some medicines.

Fortunately, there are now many gluten-free products available, and with some planning and preparation, it is possible to maintain a healthy and varied diet. It is important for people with celiac disease to work with a registered dietitian to ensure they are getting all the nutrients they need.

In addition to a gluten-free diet, people with celiac disease may also benefit from taking vitamin and mineral supplements, particularly if they have been experiencing nutrient deficiencies.

Some people may also need to take medication to manage their symptoms.

The cure

There is currently no cure for celiac disease, but with the right treatment, most people with the condition can lead healthy, normal lives. It is important for people with celiac disease to continue to follow a strict gluten-free diet even if they are feeling well, as consuming gluten can lead to a relapse of symptoms and further damage to the small intestine.

It is also important to be aware of the potential risks associated with the condition. For example, people with celiac disease may be at higher risk of developing other autoimmune disorders, such as type 1 diabetes and thyroid disease. They may also be at higher risk of certain cancers, such as lymphoma.

Your complete well-being

Your AltaMed physician can help you identify food allergies with regular visits and treatment histories. We also have registered dieticians who can build a gluten-free diet and get you on a path to feeling better and keeping your celiac disease under control. Call us today at (888) 499-9303 for more information.

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French Fries

The Fast Facts about Fats

Why is that so often the most enjoyable foods are the unhealthiest? Deserts, French fries, and pizza may taste completely different, but they share a common nutrient: fat.

Fats, along with carbohydrates and protein, are the nutrients you use in the largest amount. They are the components in food that we need for energy and to maintain the body’s structure and systems.

Fats are why foods like bacon or porkchops taste good. But the tastiest fats are the fats you want to steer clear of.

Not all fat is good for you. Some are great and they promote heart health. Others contribute to the buildup of cholesterol and can lead to heart disease or diabetes. But how do you know which fats are healthy, and which can lead to health problems?

Bacon Cooking in Oil

The Difference in Fats

The fats we eat are called dietary fats. You can find them in nearly everything except most fruits and vegetables.

There are two main kinds: saturated and unsaturated.

  • Saturated fat keeps its shape at room temperature. You find it in butter, full-fat cheese, high-fat meat, lard, whole milk, and full-fat yogurt.
  • Unsaturated fat is usually liquid at room temperature. It’s in fish, nuts, and vegetable oils.

The American Heart Association recommends limiting the number of calories from saturated fat to less than 7% a day. That’s because it tends to raise low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol levels which can increase the risk of stroke or heart disease.

Food companies will add what are called “trans” fats to foods for flavor. Some trans fat occurs naturally in very small amounts in red meat and dairy products. You are likely to find it in baked and fried foods.

Guacamole and a Halved Avocado

Unsaturated Fat

This is the good stuff. Eating foods high in unsaturated fats improves cholesterol levels, reducing your risk of heart attack or stroke.

The two main types of unsaturated fat are:

  • Monounsaturated fat — Found in canola, olive, peanut, sunflower, and safflower oils, avocados, most nuts and peanut butter. You will also find it in beef, chicken, and pork.
  • Polyunsaturated fat — Found in corn, cottonseed, soybean, and sunflower oil, along with flaxseed, pine nuts, pumpkin, sesame, and sunflower seeds, and walnuts.

Omega-3 fatty acid in another polyunsaturated fat. It’s been shown to reduce blood clotting and reduce irregular heartbeats. It’s found in fatty fish like herring, salmon, and sardines.

Woman Smiling as She Unpacks Fruits and Vegetables

Make a Change

Remember, not all fat is bad, but you want to be smart about the fat you eat. There are some simple ways to swap out the saturated fat for foods rich in unsaturated fat.

  • Switch to oil instead of butter for sauteing. Use canola oil instead of butter when you bake.
  • Eat salmon two to three times a week instead of red meat.
  • Take the skin and fat off chicken.
  • Snack on fruits and vegetables instead of pre-packaged, processed foods.

We Can Help Put You on a Healthier Path

No matter your age, what you eat has a huge effect on your overall health. Healthy eating isn’t hard – especially when you have someone to empower you to make good decisions and teach you how healthy food can be delicious. Our registered dietitians provide individually tailored nutrition plans to members of every age.

Patients with the following are encouraged to see a dietitian: diabetes, heart-related conditions, those considering bariatric surgery, pregnancy, gastrointestinal-related conditions, and patients with any other nutrition-related condition.

This program is available to all AltaMed patients at no cost. Ask your doctor for a referral or call (888) 499-9303 to enroll.

Adult Eating Better Digestion

Fueling up for Maximum Health

Your body is a spectacular example of bioengineering genius. It is the human equivalent of a finely tuned, world-class automobile.

At least, that’s what it was intended to be. Finely tuned, world-class automobiles also require proper maintenance (regular check-ups) and the right fuel (diet).

Your digestive system is the equivalent of the fuel system on a car. High-octane fuel goes in and the fuel injectors get that gas through the engine, burning at peak efficiency for either the greatest gas mileage or highest level of performance.

If your fuel is garbage, your car slows down and you reduce the efficiency of the whole machine. It’s the same with how you fuel your body. Highly processed foods like fast food, chips, snacks, canned foods, and foods with added sugars will kill the good bacteria that work to keep you at your best.

Child Eating

Gut Basics

Between your mouth and anus are 30 feet of tubing that moves everything you consume by mouth through your body. Along the way that food and drink is broken down and absorbed into your blood stream as fuel. Whatever isn’t absorbed is eliminated as waste.

Given the twists and turns along that route, it’s common for some problems to arise. Conditions like acid reflux or irritable bowel syndrome affect as many as 70 million Americans. Stress and genetics play a factor in those conditions, but so do poor sleep habits, a lack of fiber, how often you eat, when you eat, and not drinking enough water.

Some things you can do to improve your gut health:

  • Eat slower — Chewing your food well can help you swallow less air and help you know when you’re full.
  • Eat smaller meals — Packing your stomach can cause reflux and slow digestion.
  • Set a cutoff time — Your digestive system works better in the morning and during the daytime, so limit eating at night.
  • Manage stress — Digestion is tougher when you’re stressed out.
  • Make it routine — Sometimes your gut reacts better to a schedule.
  • Consider probiotics — These are fermented foods like yogurt and sauerkraut which supplement your gut bacteria. Talk to your doctor.
Vegatables Better

Dietary Boosts

It might be great if there was one thing you could eat to keep your diet healthy and digestive system working the way it should. That would also be boring. Variety is the spice of life, after all. So, it’s good to know there are several foods that will help you stay healthy.

  • Beans — Black, kidney, red, and garbanzo beans are great sources of fiber. So are peas and soybeans. They are easy to add to recipes.
  • Berries — Eat them plain or add them to cereal. They’re just as nutritious frozen.
  • Fish — Eat it fresh, frozen, or canned. Salmon, tuna, herring, trout, anchovies, and sardines are all good options.
  • Leafy greens — Collard greens, spinach, kale, and mustard greens are all good sources of fiber. You can add them to soups or stews, and of course, salads.
  • Nuts — Almonds, hazelnuts, pecans, and walnuts are good sources of plant protein and healthy fats.
  • Olive oil — Use it instead of butter in recipes or when sautéing food.
  • Tomatoes — They’re high in vitamin C and can be used in salads, sauces, and soups. Just limit the ketchup which is loaded with sugar.
  • Vegetables — We’re talking about fibrous vegetables like broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, cabbage, greens, radishes, and turnips. They are full of fiber and vitamins. Steam them, stir-fry them in olive oil, or buy them frozen and use them in soups and casseroles.
  • Whole grains — Whole wheat bread and oatmeal can give your gut bacteria something to break down for a while, which is good. It gives sustained energy.
  • Yogurt — Look for low-fat or no-fat. It’s rich in calcium and protein and it also has good bacteria which helps maintain gut health. You can use it as a substitute for sour cream and mayonnaise in dips.

We’re Here for You

AltaMed can help you answer questions about getting on a healthy regimen. We have registered dieticians to assist with creating a healthier diet for you. We can also help put together an exercise plan, and our Behavioral Health Services can help you with techniques to deal with stress. Learn more by calling (888) 499-9303.

Understanding Celiac Disease