Celiac Disease Awareness Month: Working to Understand and Cope
May is Celiac Disease Awareness Month. More than 3 million people suffer from Celiac Disease, a severe autoimmune disease affecting the small intestines. This can occur when you consume gluten, a protein found in grains including wheat, barley, and rye. If someone with celiac disease ingests any gluten, the immune system treats it like a threat and attacks it. However, in the process, it damages intestinal villi, which are present to help you digest food. This makes it extremely difficult for the body to absorb nutrients, leading to malnourishment, gastrointestinal distress, and more.
Sign and Symptoms, You Should Know About Celiac Disease
The symptoms of celiac disease can vary significantly from one person to the next. Digestive symptoms are usually one of the most common, especially in children. These symptoms include:
- Chronic diarrhea
- Nausea or vomiting
- Abdominal pain
Additional signs and symptoms not related to the digestive system that could indicate that you are suffering from celiac disease are:
- Nervous system issues
- Reproductive problems for women
- Joint Pain
- Dermatitis Herpetiformis (a rash that can occur on the skin)
How Are You Diagnosed?
If you or a loved one feels that they may have celiac disease based on symptoms, make an appointment with a healthcare professional. Along with an examination, your doctor will order you a blood test. Getting tested before trying a gluten-free diet is essential to have accurate results.
The only known treatment for celiac disease is following a gluten-free diet. In addition, people, especially children, may need daily vitamin supplements due to the lack of absorption of nutrients in the small intestines over the years.
Living a Gluten-Free Lifestyle
Avoiding gluten altogether is the only way to avoid severe discomfort and other side effects of Celiac disease. However, dramatically changing your diet will be challenging and possibly overwhelming at first. Thankfully, with celiac disease awareness growing, there are many helpful resources to turn to about how to approach your diet. You can also look for support groups in your community or online.
Here are a few additional tips to help you ease into your new dietary regime:
- Get some gluten-free cookbooks
- Become familiar with food labels and what to look for
- Learn what types of alcohol are gluten-free
- Beware of cross-contamination in your kitchen
- Use gluten-free dining apps when planning a night out
With Celiac Disease Awareness, There Comes Hope for A Cure
Where celiac disease is treatable, there is no cure, and if left untreated, it can have serious life-threatening repercussions. It can lead to the development of other autoimmune disorders, such as multiple sclerosis and type 1 diabetes, and has even been linked to an increased risk of certain types of cancer like intestinal lymphoma. This is why getting yourself checked out by your doctor or healthcare center is crucial if you are experiencing any symptoms.
The main goals of Celiac Disease Awareness Month are to make the public more aware of the disease and to push for continued funding and research toward a cure.