Friday, September 13, 2013

Happy Celiac Awareness Day 2013!

There's always a lot of talk about gluten free, but sometimes Celiac Disease is lost in the fray. It's important to remember that Celiac is a serious autoimmune disease that can have devastating health consequences for those who go undiagnosed and untreated. In addition, a failure to follow a strict gluten free diet is absolutely necessary to stay healthy. While there is more awareness of the disease today than there was fifty years ago, it is still woefully undiagnosed. On average, it takes between 6-10 years before a person is diagnosed. That's years of suffering, of visiting doctor after doctor, of being subjected to a variety of tests. We need to help raise awareness to help improve those statistics.

The problem is that the symptoms of Celiac are so varied that they are often mistaken for other illnesses. Other times they're brushed off as an upset stomach, a common parasite, or even being "all in your  head." For silent Celiacs, there are not outward symptoms at all, although the damage is still occurring on the inside. The National Foundation for Celiac Awareness has a handy symptom checklist that is useful in identifying symptoms that could indicate Celiac Disease. The sheet can be filled in online, then printed out and taken to your doctor for follow-up. Access the form by clicking HERE.

A fellow blogger, Gluten Dude, created this handy infographic outlining some of the symptoms associated with Celiac. Does that clear things up? No? That's because the symptoms of Celiac are so varied that what one person experiences as symptoms can be completely different from what someone else does. This makes diagnoses even more complicated.

Celiac Disease Symptoms
Celiac Disease Symptoms – Courtesy of Gluten Dude

Some Facts About Celiac:

- Past estimates put the rate of Celiac in the United States and Canada at 1 in 133. More recent estimates put it at 1 in 100.

- Celiac disease used to be considered a childhood illness, but it actually affects people of all ages. While a gluten intolerance or wheat allergy may be outgrown, Celiac disease is a lifelong illness that cannot be outgrown.

- Even tiny amounts of gluten can make someone with Celiac Disease sick.

- There are no vaccines or antibiotics for Celiac Disease. The only treatment is the adherence to a strict gluten free diet.

- It is estimated that roughly 80% of those with Celiac Disease are undiagnosed.

Awareness is key to help get those who may not know they have Celiac Disease diagnosed, so they can begin to eat a gluten free diet and be medically monitored. Celiac Disease is linked to many other conditions, including Type 1 Diabetes, Downs Syndrome, and Thyroid Disease, just to name a few. Many Celiac patients have anemia, low levels of Vitamin D, and are at risk of contracting many kinds of Cancer, infertility issues, and more. With the rise of the trend in gluten free, it is often forgotten that Celiac is a serious disease with terrifying health consequences.

Take the time today to educate someone on this disease, and to encourage someone exhibiting some of the symptoms to talk to their doctor.

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