Do we need to devote an entire month to raising awareness about celiac disease?
Devoting an entire month to raising awareness about celiac disease is an important and serious step in bringing celiac disease to the public’s attention. An estimated 1 in 100 people have celiac disease, many unaware and undiagnosed.
Portland, Oregon takes it so seriously the mayor has declared May 16th “Gluten-free Beer Day,” in honor of several breweries in Oregon producing gluten-free beer.
Celiac Disease & Symptoms
Gluten-free foods and gluten-free beer, for those who choose to partake, are a necessity for those with celiac disease.
Celiac disease is an auto-immune disease, meaning the body attacks itself, usually in numerous ways. The body views gluten as a foreign body, as something that simply shouldn’t be there and responds through inflammation. This inflammation affects the villi located in the small intestine, where nutrients are digested and absorbed. The villi are flattened making good digestion an impossibility.
At least 200 symptoms are associated with celiac disease. The “classic” or most common symptoms include:
- Bloating/distended stomach
- Diarrhea or constipation
- Nutrient deficiencies
- Lactose intolerance
- Acid reflux
- Bacterial overgrowth
Some of the long-term consequences of consuming gluten when you have celiac disease include much higher rates of cancer, malnutrition, bone loss, and illnesses related to nutrient deficiencies.
Gluten Free Alternatives
Restaurants and food manufacturers are jumping on board due to the demand for gluten-free foods. Gluten-free menus are available in many national chains, with servers happy to accommodate customer’s special dietary requests.
Mainstream companies are testing for gluten or becoming certified gluten-free.
Frito-Lay tests certain products for 20 PPM of gluten or less. They are also expanding their gluten-free labeling.
Snyder’s of Hanover offers certified gluten-free pretzels.
Certified gluten-free foods carry a special label which tells the consumer strict standards have been met in the production of the food in question, including testing at 10 ppm or less.
National Celiac Awareness Month is a great opportunity for those with celiac disease to enlighten others about the disease.
Avoiding gluten may sound simple — however, the reality is that celiac disease affects those afflicted in a myriad of ways. Social anxiety, food cravings, and illness are just a few. Having celiac disease can be isolating at times and the support of family and friends is imperative for success physically, mentally, and emotionally.
Have a happy National Celiac Awareness Month!