Caregivers of seniors are often responsible for providing their loved one with foods that are nourishing, healthy and satisfying. Sometimes that means keeping them away from foods that are not healthy for them.
Recently there have been an increased number of Americans who have been diagnosed with Celiac Disease, numbering approximately 2 million affected people — 1 in 133 people. This condition requires following a gluten free meal plan for the rest of our senior’s life to remain symptom free. However, those of us with affected seniors may not really understand how to incorporate gluten free foods into the daily lives of their seniors.
What is celiac disease?
It is a condition that damages the villi in the lining of the small intestine keeping your senior from absorbing parts of the food that they eat. A reaction to the gluten in certain items can cause physical symptoms such as bloating, gas, abdominal pain, diarrhea, inability to absorb nutrients and weight loss.
Where do our seniors get gluten?
Gluten is found in food, medications and fluids that our seniors ingest. Choosing a gluten free diet requires new eating habits. Gluten is found in wheat, barley, rye, and some oats that are mixed with wheat during processing as well as most grain, pasta, cereal, and many processed foods. Not only is gluten found in many processed foods we all eat, but also some medications we take and some other products we may use such as lipstick .
What can your senior eat?
Your senior can enjoy a healthy and balanced meal plan using potatoes, rice, soy, tapioca, amaranth, nuts, legumes, quinoa, cassava, corn, millet, buckwheat, uncontaminated oats and bean flour. You can select gluten free items which are now more readily available in local grocery stores including gluten free bread, gluten free baking flour mix, and gluten free pasta. They can eat meat, fish, fruits, and vegetables that do not contain sauces or coatings made from wheat flour.
It is important to read food labels when shopping which are required to list wheat as an ingredient and many are specifically labeled “gluten free”. You should also ask how food is prepared whenever you eat out to be sure it is allergy free. Many restaurants are aware of this special food allergy and have gluten free foods available. Your pharmacist can help you find medications that are gluten free to substitute for those that your senior now takes.
In your role as caregiver, you may want to seek out a support group in your area where you can learn a wealth of tips and strategies to deal with this disease and help others too with your knowledge!
We would love to hear how you overcome this food allergy so other caregivers can help their seniors.