I was diagnosed with celiac when I was about 7 years old, almost 30 years ago, and things sure have changed over the past several decades. Celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder, that happens to genetically predisposed people where the ingestion of gluten leads to an immune reaction to eating gluten, a protein found in wheat, barley, malt, hops, spelt, and rye. Celiac is hereditary, which means it runs in families; it's most likely that people with a first degree relative is most likely to have or develop celiac. It should be noted that celiac can develop at any time in ones life after they start eating foods or taking medications that contain gluten. Untreated, celiac can lead to many additional and serious health problems.
If a person with celiac eat's gluten for a long period of time, the immune reaction causes inflammation that damages the lining of the small intestines lining, which can lead to other medical complications. It can also cause malabsorption of some essential nutrients as the body can't absorb them as well as a body who doesn't have celiac disease. Worldwide, it is estimated that 1 in 100 people are affected by celiac disease and in the U.S.A. two and a half million people are potentially undiagnosed and at a higher risk for long term health complications. Some studies suggest that the later in life people are diagnosed with celiac disease, the higher chance of developing another autoimmune disorder.
The smallest trace of gluten can cause a reaction in someone with celiac, crumbs from toasters, cutting boards, or for some kissing their significant other after they eat it can trigger small intestine damage. The only treatment currently is a life long, strict, gluten-free diet, avoiding all gluten containing foods at any cost. Untreated, or for someone who doesn't maintain their gluten free diet with a celiac disease diagnosis, may end up with even more health issues, such as diabetes, multiple sclerosis, anemia, infertility and miscarriage, vitamin and mineral deficiencies, heart disease, migraines and other neurological issues, heart disease, skin conditions, and intestinal cancers to name a few.
There are many symptoms that go along with celiac disease, weight gain, weight loss, stomach pain, bloating, gas, nausea, vomiting, constipation, diarrhea, fatigue, abdominal pain, cramping, migraine, join pain, cognitive impairment, anxiety, mood swings, rashes, and anemia to name a few.
It wasn't easy getting my diagnosis, in fact I spent the better part of my childhood sick, bouncing from doctor to doctor, trying to get answers. I had doctors tell my mom it was in my head, that I was faking sick, and that I wanted to get out of school. Let me be the first to say, the symptoms are very real, I have spent most of my life faking being well in order to truly live, and if I could be, I'd be a life student, because I love school.
In today's gluten free world there are far more options than I ever could have imagined growing up. For me, there was no pizza, no cakes or cookies, no fast food, and rarely eating out with options beyond a salad. I can remember being made fun of, mostly because the other children didn't understand. The ability to go to restaurants who offer gluten free, who have gluten free dedicated areas, and yes, there are even some 100% gluten free establishments. In spreading awareness, being educated, trying to understand the disease and help others learn along the way. It may be slightly inconvenient at times, and sometimes frustrating, however the more people know, the more aware, the more options those with celiac will have in the long term.
Celiac is an autoimmune disease, not an allergy
1% of American's have Celiac Disease
83% of those people are misdiagnosed and unaware of their condition and it's severity if untreated
It takes 6-10 years on average for a person to get a diagnosis of Celiac
Untreated, Celiac can lead to other, more serious health issues
There is no cure
Treatment at this time is maintaining a 100% gluten free diet
It takes 1/64th of a teaspoon of gluten to cause intestinal damage to those with Celiac disease
Celiac can develop at any point and impacts men and women of all races, ages, and genders
Gluten can be found in food, drinks, medications, make-up, art supplies, medical supplies, skin care, and shower products
May is Celiac awareness month