Celiac Awareness Month: Facts about Celiac Disease

celiac awareness month

Celiac Awareness Month – get your facts straight.

Members of the gluten-free community, rejoice: it’s our month! May is Celiac Awareness month, and it’s our time to shine. All year long, the gluten-free community works hard to create resources, products, and solutions for those with Celiac Disease and gluten intolerance, and now is the perfect time to showcase your hard work. We’re kicking off Celiac Awareness month with 8 Fast Facts about Celiac/Coeliac Disease and gluten intolerance. Share it with friends, family, and co-workers to ensure they have a strong base knowledge on the issue and clear up any misinformation. Consider this an FAQ for those new to understanding what it means to live with Celiac Disease or gluten intolerance. Information is power, and the more others know, the more we can grow. Let’s start the month with a crash course in Celiac Disease and gluten intolerance.

Facts about Celiac Disease and Gluten Intolerance

1. Celiac Disease is an autoimmune disorder. This is a crucial fact about celiac disease : people living with a fully-functioning disease that must be taken seriously.  According to the National Library of Medicine, Celiac Disease is “…a condition that damages the lining of the small intestine and prevents it from absorbing parts of food that are important for staying healthy. The damage is due to a reaction to eating gluten, which is found in wheat, barley, rye, and possibly oats.”

2. Gluten Sensitivity can wreak havoc on a person’s health. It’s estimated that 15% of the US population is gluten intolerant, and it’s been linked to 55 different diseases. Even if you don’t have Celiac Disease, gluten intolerance can cause serious health problems including neurological issues, gastrointestinal distress, inflammation, and depression. Eliminating gluten from one’s diet can often completely alleviate symptoms.  

3Undiagnosed Celiac Disease can be fatal. Undiagnosed or poorly treated Celiac Disease is linked to a number of other serious conditions, including infertility, cancer, neurological disorders, bone thinning, osteoporosis, diabetes, arthritis, and Down Syndrome. The difficult part about Celiac Disease is it’s ambiguous and ranging symptoms – there are over 300 different symptoms associated with Celiac Disease. Keep Celiac Disease in mind when a family member or friend tells you about their mystery ailments, undiagnosed problems, or health complications. The test for Celiac Disease is simple, and you could be saving their life.

4. There’s more than one way to get a diagnosis. Both Celiac Disease and gluten intolerance are fairly new phenomena, and the diagnostic process reflects that. While the gold standard for diagnosing Celiac Disease is an intestinal biopsy, a celiac panel blood test is another important diagnostic tool. Currently, the only way to test for gluten sensitivity is to eliminate gluten from the diet and track signs of improvement. For some, blood tests will indicate that a gluten sensitivity may be present.

5. Currently, the only treatment for both conditions is a strict gluten-free diet. Despite what you may have heard, there are no magic pills, life hacks, or ways around treating Celiac Disease or a gluten sensitivity besides a strict gluten-free diet. While some companies have created “gluten defense” pills, those with Celiac Disease and severe sensitivities should continue their gluten-free diets, since these pills treat the symptoms, not the problem.

6. You can’t cheat on your gluten-free diet. No ifs, ands, or buts about it – no matter how good that breaded chicken, fresh donut, or cold (non gluten-free) beer looks, you can’t have it. This is often a cold, harsh reality for those on a gluten-free diet, but new delicious and nutritious gluten-free options appear on the market every day. Practice patience and perseverance, and say no to diet-cheating.

7.  Cross contamination matters – a lot.This point is crucial. When out with family and friends, you may find they raise an eyebrow when you start quizzing the server on shared pans, food storage, and hidden ingredients. Cross contamination occurs when gluten-free foods come into any sort of contact with gluten ingredients, and if you have Celiac Disease or a serious sensitivity, all of your hard work is undone with one incident of cross contamination. If you’re in food service, eating out, or cooking for a gluten-free individual, take extra caution in preparing their food. Something as simple as not washing your hands, changing gloves, or re-using a pan can trigger major health issues in these individuals.

8. Extensive research is underway. All things considered, Celiac Disease and gluten intolerance are fairly new to the medical world. Although the ingestion of wheat was linked to disease as early as the 1950s, it wasn’t until recently that the conditions received widespread diagnosis and treatment in the medical community. That said, groundbreaking research is taking place across the world, and there’s hope yet. While a strict gluten-free diet is currently the only effective treatment, scientists are working on a pill to re-engineer enzymes to break down gluten into smaller parts, so that they’re less likely to trigger a reaction. Likely, this is the first of many new innovative solutions for those living with gluten intolerance.

Do you have any more fast facts you would like to share on celiac disease (coeliac disease) or gluten sensitivity? Give us your two cents in the comments below!

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