May is Celiac Awareness Month

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As new signs of life bloom all around me, I feel renewed and energized to go out into the world and spread the word about the celiac disease. By joining forces with our support groups and becoming educated on what celiac disease is, we can help to educate others. Celiac disease is often misunderstood or not taken seriously by those who don’t have it, and this can lead to severe consequences for those who suffer from it.

When researching statistics, you’ll find that it occurs in about 1 in 133 people in Canada and the United States who are genetically predisposed to the disease. That’s about 1 % of the population and this only includes people who have been diagnosed. How many more people suffer from celiac disease but aren’t aware of it?

People with celiac disease are not able to digest the protein gluten which can be found in wheat, rye, barley and oats that aren’t pure oats. Oats cause a problem only because there is cross contamination from barely in the oats.

If gluten is eaten, it causes a severe immune reaction in the small intestine, which over time can damage the villi that are in the small intestine. Once the villi are damaged, absorption is impaired. Since 90% of our proteins, carbohydrates and fats and a smaller percentage of vitamins and minerals are absorbed by the small intestine, this can lead to major issues. When we are not absorbing the proper nutrients, we make ourselves susceptible to other conditions and illnesses.

A major concern for someone with celiac disease is cross contamination. We are often in situations where there is food that would normally be gluten free being mixed with food that is not. This is very common when eating out. Because our reactions to eating gluten are not outwardly visible (other than the pain that you may see in someone’s face), it’s often a struggle to get people to realize how serious celiac disease is.

I find that having a support group is extremely beneficial. My support groups are there to share my struggles and to help me find solutions. It’s always nice to know that you’re not alone and that there are others out there with the same concerns. If you aren’t sure where to begin, a great place is through celiac associations in your area. You will also find personal interest seminars at your local colleges and health stores. Support can even be as simple as a friend with a listening ear or an online website. Wherever you find your support, join hands with them and face your challenges together.