Gluten-Free Territory

It is important to think outside the box of traditional snacks to accommodate gluten-intolerant individuals. © Can Stock Photo Inc. / McIninch

It is important to think outside the box of traditional snacks to accommodate gluten-intolerant individuals.

© Can Stock Photo Inc. / McIninch

When preparing food for a large group of people, the administration of a camp may find it difficult to adhere to the guidelines of special diets. Basic knowledge of the different food allergies and intolerances can help staff members understand how better to serve campers who may require additional attention. For example, Celiac Disease—once thought of as rare—affects as many as 1 in 133 people, or more than 2-million Americans, according to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. Bringing awareness to this digestive disorder may help provide the best and safest experience for campers affected by it.

What is Celiac Disease?

Celiac Disease, or Celiac Sprue, is an autoimmune disease in which gluten—a protein found in many foods—damages the villi that line the small intestine. These villi are responsible for absorbing many nutrients during digestion, including vitamins, minerals, proteins, carbohydrates, and fats. Symptoms often include abdominal cramping, bloating, and chronic diarrhea and/or constipation. Untreated or poorly managed, the disease can present long-term symptoms, such as anemia, weight loss, fatigue, and growth failure in children, due to low nutrient absorption. Symptoms are often similar to those of other digestive disorders, including Irritable Bowel Syndrome.

There is no cure for Celiac Disease; those with the disorder must eliminate gluten products from the diet. In children diagnosed at a young age, this may be easier than in older adults, who have eaten gluten-containing products throughout their lives.

It is important to realize that Celiac Disease differs from a food allergy. A food allergy, such as an allergy to wheat, often causes physical symptoms, such as difficulty in breathing, skin rash, and abdominal discomfort. The autoimmune nature of Celiac Disease differentiates it from an allergy, and results in damage to the small intestine.

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What Exactly Is Gluten?

Gluten is a protein found in certain grains. Cooking and processing will not eliminate gluten from that food. It is found in foods made with the following grains:

Wheat Rye Barley

Bulgur Semolina Triticale

Graham flour Spelt Farina

Most commonly consumed in baked goods, food items containing gluten include:

• Breads

• Cereals

• Desserts (including cookies, brownies, cakes, and pies)

• Beer and other malted beverages

• Crackers

• Pasta

• Snack foods.

Grains that are naturally gluten-free include:

Rice Corn Quinoa

Soy Sorghum Tapioca

Hominy Millet Arrowroot

Grains such as buckwheat and oats are thought to be gluten-free; however, various factors may affect the gluten content.

Not only do the above foods often contain gluten, but foods without grains as a main ingredient may also include gluten. Foods requiring fillers and thickeners contain “modified food starch,” which may include wheat. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics warns those with Celiac Disease to be aware of processed meats, dressings and prepared sauces, soups, seasoned snack foods, yogurt, hummus, dips, flavorings, and malted ingredients when preparing food.

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Avoid Cross-Contamination

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