Happy Celiac Awareness Day!

Today is Celiac Awareness Day! Normally I don’t fall for the slew of national <insert random food or activity here> day of celebration, but I believe this is one that deserves recognition.

The main reason it is important people are aware of the severity of celiac is because the disease is over-shadowed by celebrities people who think a gluten-free diet is the fad-of-the-day answer to weight loss. It’s not. In fact, if you consume pre-packaged gluten-free products you’re more likely to gain weight.

What is Celiac Disease?

According to Mayo Clinic, “Celiac (SEE-lee-ak) disease is a digestive condition triggered by consumption of the protein gluten, which is primarily found in bread, pasta, cookies, pizza crust and many other foods containing wheat, barley or rye. People with celiac disease who eat foods containing gluten experience an immune reaction in their small intestines, causing damage to the inner surface of the small intestine and an inability to absorb certain nutrients.”

Celiac symptoms are often GI tract related (bloating, diarrhea, and abdominal pain) , but it can also affect joints, clarity, brain function and energy levels. It can reveal itself with failure to thrive (in babies and toddlers), irritability, depression, skin rash, mouth sores and muscle cramps. Or, in my case, masked as ADHD.

What can happen if left untreated?

  • Malnutrition. Untreated celiac disease can lead to malabsorption, which in turn can lead to malnutrition. This occurs in spite of what appears to be an adequate diet. Because vital nutrients are lost in the stool rather than absorbed in the bloodstream, malabsorption can cause a deficiency in vitamins and minerals, vitamin D, folate and iron, resulting in anemia and weight loss. Malnutrition can cause stunted growth and delayed development in children.
  • Loss of calcium and bone density. With continued loss of fat in the stool, calcium and vitamin D may be lost in excessive amounts. This may result in osteomalacia, a softening of the bone that in children is also known as rickets, and loss of bone density (osteoporosis), a condition that leaves your bones fragile and prone to fracture.
  • Cancer. People with celiac disease who don’t maintain a gluten-free diet also have a greater chance of getting one of several forms of cancer, including intestinal lymphoma and bowel cancer.
  • Neurological complications. Celiac disease has also been associated with disorders of the nervous system, including seizures and nerve damage (peripheral neuropathy).

For the full list of complications, please see Mayo Clinic

Let thy food be thy medicine, and thy medicine be thy food ~Hippocrates

If any of those symptoms sound familiar, you should consider getting tested or at least exploring other possible explanations. Tomorrow (September 14) marks 1 full year that I’ve been gluten-free and I know my insides thank me everyday. Truth be told though, being gluten-free sucks–especially at family gatherings, parties, and dining out. However, going gluten-free resolved my stomach issues (which I didn’t realize how bad they were until I no longer had to deal with everyday) and has allowed me to completely stop taking Adderall XR. I am most grateful treatment is in my diet, and not at the mercy of another pharmaceutical drug.

Do you have celiac disease? What resources do you turn to for support?

Meridith Oram
Meridith Oram is an ACE-Certified Health Coach at Love Yourself Towards Healthy where she helps women heal their relationship with food, fitness and body image. She is also the creator of Gain Wellness, a 5-week behavioral change program to unlearn diet culture, stop negative self-talk and set wellness goals---not appearance goals. Follow Meridith at @loveyourself2healthy on all social channels.
  • Lori

    As I am someone who suffers from Celiac Disease, I appreciate you sharing this information to all who may not be as knowledgeable about it. I get so tired of people complaining about people talking about gluten free this and that when they have no idea how it makes someone like me feel. It is a hard diet to follow and takes a lot of dedication. The more information out there, the easier it gets! This might not be as serious as other diseases out there in our world, but it can lead to other serious conditions without the proper diet!

  • meridith

    Thanks Lori! I completely agree. It’s frustrating how celebrities like Miley Cyrus and Lady Gaga tout gluten-free as the explanation for their thin physique. Some media are intelligent enough to use it as a jumping block to bring light to Celiac, gluten allergies and gluten sensitivities, but most just jump on the bandwagon too.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *