Celiac Disease Awareness Month: Living and Thriving with Celiac DiseaseMay 28, 2021 08:30AM ● By Tiffany Hinton
Living with celiac disease can be difficult and confusing. Leading up to the diagnosis of celiac is a challenging journey for many. According to research, the average patient can take up to 14 years to properly receive a diagnosis. Symptoms can range from mild to severe, and include diarrhea, bloated belly, weight loss, malnutrition, skin rashes and in children, even a diagnosis of failure to thrive. Celiac disease, once diagnosed, can cause stress and anxiety for the individual. Upon diagnosis, they must learn to modify their diet to exclude gluten-containing items, change home items (dishes, cutting boards, etc.) and cleaning products, as well as body care products to ensure they are not digesting gluten accidentally.
Celiac disease can affect anyone at any age. Chicago Advocate Children’s Hospital lists celiac disease as an autoimmune disease that is triggered by the gluten protein. It is estimated that 1 percent, or one in 133 people, have celiac disease. It occurs when the body is unable to process the gluten protein found in wheat, barley and rye. The disease can cause the villi in the intestinal track to become blunted and damaged, limiting the body’s ability to fully absorb the micronutrients from the food, which can result in vitamin deficiency or other medical concerns. Currently, there is no cure for the disease, while research is continuing to seek treatment assistance. At this point the only treatment is a completely gluten-free diet.
The gluten-free diet has become more popular in the last decade, and many food manufactures have introduced safe, gluten-free options. Even as national brands adapt to gluten-free diet requests, cross-contamination is a serious concern at restaurants, events and family gatherings where food is shared and utensils could be exchanged while cooking or serving the dishes.
The Americans with Disabilities Act recognizes celiac disease as a disability, and many corporations and government centers now offer menu assistance in onsite cafeterias for those with celiac disease. The awareness is growing. The Celiac Disease Foundation has hosted conferences empowering food and wellness bloggers to increase awareness and encourage those with symptoms or family members diagnosed to be tested.
Accidental gluten ingestion can cause many symptoms to return and turn on the antibody production again in the body, resulting in increased inflammation, headaches, skin rashes, constipation or diarrhea, among other issues. The human body needs at least 21 days of no exposure to gluten to shut off the antibody production. The villi in the gut can take many years to heal once the disease is confirmed and the patient adopts a gluten-free lifestyle. The consequences of continuing to eat or expose the body to gluten-containing products increases the risk of lymphoma, infertility, nutrition deficiencies, osteoporosis and diagnosis of new autoimmune diseases like Crohn’s disease, according to Advocate Children’s Hospital's celiac center.
Those that believe they have celiac disease should speak with a doctor and be tested prior to going gluten-free. Individuals with diagnosed celiac disease need to follow up annually with a medically trained nutritionist or functional medicine practitioner to manage an effective, gluten-free lifestyle.
Tiffany Hinton is the founder of GF MomCertified. Connect on social media @GFMomCertified. See ad in the Women in Wellness feature and in the Business Directory at NAChicago.com.