This Wednesday, September 13th, is National Celiac Awareness Day and it is a very important day because of the prevalence of this disease in this country and around the world. You may be aware of the “gluten-free” diet, which has become popular in recent years for the belief it aids in weight loss and healthy living. But, this diet was actually designed and intended for individuals with Celiac disease to offer them alternative options to gluten-based foods to avoid aggravating their intestinal system.
Knowing the facts about Celiac disease is important because of how often this disease goes undiagnosed or misdiagnosed.
What is Celiac Disease?
Celiac disease is an autoimmune disease that affects the intestinal tract. When an individual with Celiac disease ingests gluten, the body will produce an immune response, causing their body to attack the villi in the small intestine. The villi are small, finger-like projections of tissue that line your small intestine. Their role is to increase the surface area of your small intestine and transport substances into the bloodstream for absorption. The immune response that occurs greatly diminishes their ability to absorb nutrients from all foods because they become damaged.
Aside from a lack of nutrient absorption, there can be a great deal of physical discomfort and pain that is associated with the consumption of gluten. If left untreated, Celiac disease can cause serious long-term health complications such as Type 1 diabetes, Multiple Sclerosis (MS), and certain GI Cancers.
Signs and Symptoms
Early detection is key when it comes to Celiac disease. The longer the disease is left undiagnosed, the worse the symptoms and complications may become. The following signs and symptoms can be an indication that you or a loved one may be dealing with some degree of Celiac disease.
- Abdominal bloating and pain after eating gluten
- Unexplained weight-loss or fatigue
- Arthritis or joint pain
- Frequent and unexplained migraines
If you have these symptoms, it does not necessarily mean that you have Celiac disease. However, they do indicate that you might consider monitoring your diet and reactions to certain foods, especially as it pertains to gluten, and see your physician if these symptoms do not improve.
Gluten is found in wheat, wheat varieties, such as durum, spelt and farina, rye, and barley. These grains are most often used to make pastas, noodles, breads, crackers, cereals, granola, and bread. You can also find gluten in sauces, gravy and beer, which many people may not realize.
It’s important to look at the ingredient list and see if there are any gluten-containing ingredients. If something is gluten-free, it should be properly labeled and easy for you to pick out.
Take action this National Celiac Awareness Day
Taking action is key when it comes to Celiac Disease! The most effective management technique is a life-long adherence to a gluten-free diet. Eliminating gluten from your diet can erase many, if not all of the symptoms associated with the disease but it is not an easy task.
Here are a few ways to take action this National Celiac Awareness Day!
- If you or a loved one is having any of the above symptoms, talk to your physician about getting tested.
- If you have Celiac disease, eliminate gluten from your diet by familiarizing yourself with the gluten containing foods.
- Meet with a Registered Dietitian to customize a gluten-free diet for you so your nutritional needs can be met.
- Help spread the word and ensure that others are not walking around misdiagnosed!
Celiac disease is manageable when diagnosed correctly, but it is too often misdiagnosed. Jump on any social media outlet this week and help spread the word!