icon - food

What you might not know about Celiac disease

Celiac disease: all of us have heard about it. But what we might not know is that around 1% of the population in Italy but also globally, suffers from it. So what is really celiac disease and how can it affect our eating patterns? Is it a food allergy, a food intolerance or none of the two? 

We asked Markas' dietitians, Claudia Dell'Edera and Valentina Alber to clarify myths and misconceptions around it and share key steps to offer a high quality gluten-free food service. 

What is Celiac disease? How can it affect you?

Coeliac or Celiac Disease is a chronic inflammation of the intestine, triggered in genetically predisposed persons, by eating foods containing gluten. In fact, the immune system mistakenly attacks the healthy tissue of the intestinal wall, gradually 'flattening' the intestinal villi. As a result, nutrients cannot be absorbed properly.  

The only treatment currently available is to follow a gluten-free diet for life. Therefore, reading food labels is crucial since foods that contain  gluten such as wheat, barley, spelt, rye, kamut and consequently products such as bread, pasta, pizza, breakfast cereals, crackers, rusks, etc. should be avoided. When it comes to processed products such as pre-fried potatoes, vegetable mix for soups, hams or sliced cheeses, it's also wise to check the labels to ensure that there are no gluten traces.

If you are diagnosed with celiac disease, ask your doctor or your dietitian for a gluten-free diet which can help your intestinal mucosa recover, and make your symptoms gradually disappear. 
Reading gnocchi labels - flour with letters
What would you tell people that have been diagnosed with Celiac disease and are concerned about dining and social eating? 

Nowadays, celiac disease is no longer a limitation. Now, there is a wide variety of products that makes a gluten-free diet less complicated and there are specialized collective catering companies that offer a tasty and safe meal to celiac disease patients. For example, more than 260 gluten-free special diets are prepared in Markas canteens throughout Italy per day.

However, things can be slightly more problematic when dining at a restaurant, especially from a psychological point of view. 

This is totally understandable as it can take some time to adapt to the new type of diet. If you are dining at a restaurant call ahead and inform the staff about your condition. Don't be afraid to make specific questions about the way they prepare meals and specific ingredients.  

These days, more and more restaurants offer gluten-free choices, but if you still feel stressed, bring a snack with you just in case!
what you need toknow about celiac disease - pasta
what you need toknow about celiac disease - pasta
Getting diagnosed with Celiac disease: as straightforward as it sounds?

Celiac disease is characterized by a variety of symptoms: from diarrhea, abdominal bloating and pain, to weight loss and delayed growth in children. In its more atypical form though, symptoms are less specific symptoms such as tiredness, frequent mouth ulcers, vomiting, menstrual cycle disorders and hair loss.

Obtaining a diagnosis is therefore not as straightforward. According to the Italian Coeliac Disease Association, on average the time between symptom onset and diagnosis is six years. 

Visiting your doctor before eliminating gluten from your diet is extremely important in order to get the right diagnosis. 
what to know about celiac disease -  bread basket
Storing & cooking for gluten-free guests: any tip or advice?
Cooking for guests with Celiac disease might seem challenging but it is less complicated than it sounds as long as you follow a few simple rules in order to minimize cross-contamination: 
- Use pots, pans, knives, chopping boards, etc. that are easy to clean. Make sure that all utensils and surfaces are thoroughly washed before you start preparing any dishes.
- If you also need to cook dishes containing gluten, prepare gluten-free dishes first
- While grocery shopping, choose gluten-free products and keep them in a different shopping bag.
- Store gluten-free foods away from those that contain gluten, ideally in two separate cupboards. Alternatively, store gluten-free foods higher up. 
what to know about celiac disease - markas' staff preparing food
Which are the key steps for offering a great gluten-free food service?

First of all, let's highlight the importance of offering gluten-free meals in schools, universities, hospitals, offices etc. in order to guarantee a stress-free meal for everyone. In order to do so, choosing a trustworthy and reliable food service provider is crucial. Markas for example, has successfully passed strict protocols and inspections for all stages of gluten-free meal preparation. 

It all starts with the procurement of raw materials: purchasing the right products means a careful analysis of information and labels. Then, catering companies should ensure that gluten-free products are stored in separate areas to avoid contamination. Also, the preparation of any special meals such as gluten-free meals must take place in a safe manner. 

Another key factor in offering a high quality gluten-free service is providing the right training. At Markas, dieticians and nutritionists make sure that cooks and kitchen staff  are well-informed about safety procedures, from purchasing and storage to preparation, delivery and consumption.