Turkish town to provide free buckwheat bread to celiac patients

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In the fertile plain of Mardin in southeastern Turkey, a small plot of land stands out among many. Buckwheat is grown for the first time on the 10 acre field with a special purpose. It will be used for the production of bread for celiac patients who need a gluten-free diet. Celiac disease is a chronic digestive and immune disorder that damages the small intestine.

Workers harvested the first crops on Wednesday in the field in Artuklu district, Mardin province, harvesting some 650 kilograms (1,433 pounds) of buckwheat as part of the trial crop. The program is carried out jointly by the municipality, the local agricultural authority and agricultural research institutes. The municipality of Mardin will transform the buckwheat in its facilities to make bread which will be distributed free of charge to patients in the province.

Acting Mayor of Mardin Mahmut Demirtaş told Anadolu Agency (AA) on Wednesday that the province has some 1,000 celiac patients and they have decided to produce buckwheat under a pilot program in the a farmer’s field. “It gave us a chance to see if we can do it,” he said. Agriculture in Mardin is mainly concentrated on wheat and barley.

The distribution of buckwheat bread will prioritize celiac patients who cannot afford it while Demirtaş says they hoped to increase production and deliver them to the wider southeast region. “Mardin has the advantage of a shorter harvest time, just 60 days compared to the 90 days required elsewhere. We had decent weather conditions, good sunshine,” he said.

Dr. Ahmet Güneş, an agricultural engineer from an agricultural research institute based in the Turkish breadbasket of Konya, said that they have been working on increasing buckwheat production over the past two decades, noting that buckwheat production has grown in the world and that Turkey, since 2014, has been producing its own buckwheat seeds.

Mehmet Keleş, the farmer who assigned his field to production, said that buckwheat was a crop requiring “less energy consumption” for irrigation. “I will plant it on another 30 acres and hope other farmers in the area will join in the production,” he said.

Celiac disease, which is defined as an immune reaction to eating gluten, a protein found in wheat, barley and rye, has no known cure, but symptoms can be managed and the intestines affected by the disease can be cured by a gluten-free diet. Symptoms of the disease can be insidious and triggered by infections, stress, birth, pregnancy and surgery. Symptoms of celiac disease are mainly detected by tests and examinations carried out on the digestive system and include, among others, nausea, vomiting, stomach pain, bloating, diarrhea, constipation, too much gas and smelly, oily feces.

In children, it usually manifests as malnutrition caused by inadequate absorption of nutrition and causes growth problems, slow growth, short stature, weight loss, anxiety and mood swings, delayed puberty, enamel spots and more. Other symptoms are anemia, iron, folic acid and vitamin B12 deficiencies, bone pain, anxiety and depression, itching and blisters, fatigue, mouth sores, infertility , repeated miscarriages, disturbances of the menstrual cycle, epileptic seizures, paresthesias of the hands and feet, osteolysis. , osteoporosis and headaches.

Turkey hosts more than 138,000 celiac patients. Although they represent only a small fraction of the total population, its true prevalence rate is difficult to determine because its symptoms are very diverse, resembling other diseases and sometimes it does not show any symptoms.

Gluten-free foods have become more available in Turkey in recent years, but the high prices of these products remain a challenge for celiac disease.

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