In honor of National Celiac Disease Awareness Month, Mum Mum’s has been discussing how to live well and cope with celiac disease. While great strides have been made in raising awareness for celiac disease, more work still needs to be done. Although there about 3 million celiacs in the US, it’s estimated that another 2.7 million remain undiagnosed. Yes, more awareness is definitely needed.
Perhaps it is best to go back to basics because as of right now, it takes about 4 years for someone suffering from celiac disease to get a proper diagnosis. Four years! If you have little ones struggling than you know just how long that feels, especially if you are at a loss for what to do or how to help.
Celiac disease is an autoimmune disease, or a condition in which the body attacks itself as if it was a harmful invader, and is usually genetic. However, experts believe certain triggers bring about celiac symptoms like a bad stomach illness or after a pregnancy. Also known as celiac sprue and gluten enteropathy, celiac disease is a condition that when upon ingestion of gluten, the immune system launches a full on attack primarily on the intestines. With constant white blood cell attack, eventually the villi- small finger-like projections lining the intestines responsible for nutrient absorption- start to degrade.
Gluten is a protein found in wheat, barley, and rye. Oats are gluten free by nature but are often cross-contaminated with gluten grains during processing, and gluten can also be hidden in artificial flavorings and beauty products. Because of the effects gluten has on the nutrient absorption, many people often get diagnosed through the secondary effects of celiac disease like malnutrition, anemia, osteoporosis, diabetes, or infertility.
Sadly, there are no real definitive tests for diagnosing celiac disease, but we’ve made lots of progress. Another reason to help share the awareness is that some doctors and medical professionals are still skeptical, despite the overwhelming evidence, that gluten can cause such physical problems. Let’s get the conversations started, and keep them going because celiac disease is actually very treatable and with a gluten free diet, most celiacs can stay symptom free.