By Amira Francis
Have you ever thought about glucose? I have. In fact, for about three months, that’s pretty much all I’ve been thinking about. After displaying several worrisome symptoms for about six months or so, I knew I had to change something. Constant fatigue, on-and-off depression, and brain fog obstructed my ability to function as a freshman in college. I mean, they would probably affect you no matter where you are in life. So I decided to take action.
My doctor took a few blood tests and the results showed slight insulin resistance. It’s a precursor to glucose intolerance, she told me. Which is a precursor to diabetes. Cut out glucose, she said.
Glucose is essentially sugar. It is a main source of energy, and is absorbed directly into your bloodstream, instantly raising your blood sugar levels.
Cutting it out of my diet was even harder than you might think. Do you know how many foods have glucose in it? A lot. No more pasta. No more cake, bread, bagels, muffins. No alcohol and no processed meats. Oh, and no sugar.
Food allergies and intolerances have been getting a lot of media attention lately. Besides glucose, gluten also seems to be becoming a bigger problem as well. Gluten is in fewer things than glucose. It’s primarily found in barley, wheat, rye and their derivative foods. More and more, you find cafeterias with gluten-free stations (Boston University dining halls, anyone?) and restaurants that have gluten-free food options. It’s fantastic that restaurants and other food places are trying to accommodate those with gluten problems, but the fact that they need to do that in order to stay modernized lets you know that gluten really is becoming more of a problem. New York Times published an article on Saturday outlining a couple of studies that startled those who examine gluten autoimmune disorders.
In the study, they focus on Celiac disease, an autoimmune disorder where the gluten in foods causes the body to turn on itself and attack the small intestine. Basically (and you should probably read the study for yourself), the causes of gluten disorders (and other auto-immune disorders, such as diabetes) are becoming more and more convoluted. Is it genetic? Does it have to do with microbes? Bacteria? How often did you come into contact with gluten when you were a baby? Maybe all of the above have some sort of influence on it? It’s a mystery that begs to be solved.
For the time being, those who are lucky enough to have avoided these autoimmune disorders should enjoy the delicious breads and sugars while you can. For those of you who have some sort of glucose or gluten intolerance? It might be time to lay low on your favorite foods. Or at least, be mindful. That’s what I’m doing. Although, for me, it’s hard to stay away from glucose (which I am supposed to avoid) completely. I’ll still take my pasta and bagels on occasion, thank you very much.
By Ruth Chan, Features Staff Writer
More than 2 million people in the United States have celiac disease, the affliction that forces people to eat a gluten-free diet, according to the National Institute of Health.
But what exactly does being “gluten-free,” and having celiac disease mean?
Sargent College of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences Associate Professor Joan Salge Blake said celiac disease is a disease of the small intestine that has a strong genetic link.
“Celiac disease involves damage of the small intestine. It is genetically inherited and people who have this, when they consume gluten, have an immune response,” Blake said. “Because of this, they have damaged the inside of their small intestines and are unable to allow nutrients to be absorbed.”
Blake also said that damage of the small intestine could lead to malnutrition if left untreated.
“This leads to not only gastro-intestinal distress, but potentially malnutrition because they are not getting the nutrients they need, which is very serious.” Blake said.
College of Arts and Sciences Junior Duran Ward has been dealing with celiac disease since his junior year of high school.
“My first few years were a little bit rough. I didn’t know a lot about celiac disease nor did I have a clear understanding of what gluten was,” Ward said in an email with the Daily Free Press.
“To make a long story short, it was a pretty big hassle at the time, especially being a multi-sport athlete, because it was hard to supplement my diet,” he said. “Things like Twizzlers, soy sauce, teriyaki sauce, cold cuts for sandwiches and other seemingly random things all contain gluten.”
However, there is an upside to all of this. Blake said that because there is a genetic link with celiac disease, people can detect their symptoms earlier and get diagnosed. They can then remove gluten from their diet, allow their GI tract to heal and go on to eat healthily.
Since gluten is found in all wheat, rye and barley products, being gluten-free can be difficult. However, it is possible to have a very healthy diet even if you have to avoid gluten.
Blake said it is easy to substitute gluten products with other foods.
“You can have corn, beans, potatoes, soy and rice [in place of gluten products],” he said. “From a nutritional standpoint, you can meet your nutrient needs using grains such as rice instead. You can also have other starchy types of carbohydrates in place of wheat.”
Ward agreed, and said his diet consists of a lot of meat, potatoes, corn, rice, vegetables and beans.
Symptoms of celiac disease are unpleasant, though. They include diarrhea, constipation, vomiting and weight less. While many hope for a cure, the only cure that is currently available is to simply stay away from gluten and wheat products.
Ward recalled his reaction to eating gluten.
“For [people with celiac disease], eating gluten can be very dangerous but everyone reacts differently,” he said. “I would simply have an upset stomach for a while, lose weight easily, get headaches, or I couldn’t hold food down if I ate something with gluten in it.”
Both Blake and Ward feel that Boston University has a lot to offer when it comes to helping students with gluten-free diets. Blake said that BU has dietitians in the nutritional center who work closely with on campus food services to ensure that they have foods available for people who have this issue.
“I made suggestions about different gluten free items and they became more readily available,” Ward said, in regards to introducing gluten-free products in BU dining halls. “Now in the West dining hall they even have a special gluten- free room, which is a huge improvement compared to the years prior.”