May 6, 2016
May is National Celiac Disease Awareness Month, and it’s the perfect time for those with celiac disease or those with a gluten intolerance to learn more about the condition and the available nutritional choices, and to spread awareness of what the condition actually is.
There are many misconceptions about celiac disease, some involving whether it even exists or is just a diet fad. This can be very frustrating who experience celiac’s symptoms, as their intolerance is real and affects their daily life.
Those with celiac disease or a gluten intolerance plan every meal around what their body can and cannot properly digest. This can make normally simple tasks such as grocery shopping or ordering at a restaurant more complicated, and possibly even more expensive. Those who are new to celiac disease are often surprised at just how many everyday items contain gluten or wheat, including non-food items such as medications, makeup and vitamins.
How it works
Those with celiac disease are unable to process gluten in the same way someone without a gluten intolerance would. Their body reacts negatively, with their immune system “attacking” the small intestine and preventing normal digestion from occurring. When this happens, a person can experience a range of unpleasant symptoms, including abdominal pain, nausea, bloating, gas and diarrhea.
Why it is hard to diagnose
Celiac disease can be difficult to diagnose, as its symptoms often match those of other digestive disorders, or symptoms can be so wide ranging that celiac disease is among the last conditions to be considered. It can be tough for someone with celiac disease to demonstrate that they are consistently unwell, just as it can be difficult for a doctor to determine that celiac disease is responsible. In fact, the average amount of time it takes for a diagnosis of celiac disease is 6-10 years. If you are experiencing symptoms associated with celiac disease, especially after consuming foods that contain gluten, we advise that you speak with a specialist, such as a gastroenterologist who is familiar with celiac disease and gluten intolerance, and will be able to assist in forming an accurate diagnosis and nutritional plan to manage symptoms.
Regardless of whether you think you may have celiac disease or you’ve been knowingly living with the condition for years, there are resources for education about the reality of the disease. As an autoimmune disease, celiac disease needs to be managed with the help and guidance of medical professionals – you don’t have to navigate these symptoms on your own.
We’ve provided some helpful educational resources on celiac disease where you can learn more about the condition: