May is National Celiac Awareness Month

What is Celiac Disease? Here is the explanation from the Gluten Intolerance Group (GIG) website:

Celiac disease (CD) is also referred to as gluten sensitive enteropathy (GSE), gluten intolerance, or celiac sprue. It is considered to be the most under-diagnosed common disease today, potentially affecting 1 in every 133 people in the USA. It is a chronic, inherited disease, and if untreated can ultimately lead to malnutrition. Gluten intolerance is the result of an immune-mediated response to the ingestion of gluten (from wheat, rye, and barley) that damages the small intestine. Nutrients are then quickly passed through the small intestine, rather than being absorbed. To develop celiac disease (CD) three (3) things must be present: 1) you must inherit the gene, 2) consume gluten, and 3) have the gene triggered. Common triggers may include stress, trauma (surgeries, pregnancy, etc.), and viral infections. Approximately 1 in 20 first-degree relatives could have CD triggered in their lifetime. The disease is permanent and damage to the small intestine will occur every time you consume gluten, regardless if symptoms are present.

During our recent ‘Cousins Weekend’, I was asked what had been my symptoms of the disease. A quick list: iron anemia, and virtually no iron stores (ferritin level), repeated and at times severe canker sores, stomach upset, stomach pain, steatorrhea for years, joint pain, hair loss, tooth enamel loss, dental cavities since childhood. I was infertile; my one son is a miracle. I would eat and be hungry an hour later. Naturally I often felt poorly, and depression and fatigued haunted me. When the celiac disease began to take a larger toll, I gained weight, and when it got really bad, I lost over twenty pounds. I was into osteopenia at the age of forty-six. I developed thyroid disease and secondary Sjogren’s Syndrome, another autoimmune disease.

If I could tell people just a few things, I would say: “If you have anemia, do not assume it is nothing, or caused by menstrual cycles. Get tested. You are not meant to live with gas and stomach upset. Get tested. Celiac disease is inherited. It takes a terrible toll. Many, as I and my mother, had it in childhood, but nothing was known about the disease at that time. Had we known, we could have avoided the complications of thyroid disease and dry eyes. Get tested!

Celiac Disease affects at least 1 out of every 133 people in this country, and gluten intolerance even more. Go to the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness and take the symptoms checklist. If you frequently have any of the symptoms, Get Tested! If your doctor does not know about celiac or understand the seriousness, find a doctor who does. The life you save could be someone you love, or even yourself. Learn how you can support others to be healthy.