Facts and figures on celiac disease
LIVING AGAINST THE GRAIN
Free Press Health Columnist
May is National Celiac Awareness Month, which brings attention to celiac disease, gluten intolerance and wheat allergies. This month is dedicated to bringing awareness to what the disease is, diagnosis of the disease as well as treatment of celiac disease. A light-green ribbon shows support for this disease.
I have touched on celiac disease in a past article, but since this is Celiac Awareness Month, I wanted to bring attention to some celiac disease facts as well as diagnosis and other items.
1. Celiac disease is an autoimmune disease that damages the villi (finger-like projections) of the small intestine and interferes with absorption of nutrients from food. Essentially it means that the body is attacking itself every time gluten is consumed.
2. Gluten is found in wheat, barley and rye products.
3. One in every 133 people has celiac disease and most don’t know it. To put it in perspective, we estimate that more than 1,000 people in the Grand Valley have celiac disease. If you have a direct relative with celiac disease, your chances of having it go to one in 22.
4. 95% of all celiacs are undiagnosed or misdiagnosed with other conditions.
5. Symptoms of celiac disease are bloating, diarrhea, fatigue, brain fog, skin rash, weight gain/loss, depression and more.
6. You can be tested for celiac disease in two ways: A simple blood test or via a biopsy in the small intestine.
7. There is no pill or medicine to cure celiac disease. The only way to “cure” celiac disease is to adhere to a gluten-free diet.
Why are these facts important? Because on average it takes 6-10 years for celiac disease to be diagnosed. This is 6-10 years of living in discomfort, of not thinking clearly, and possibly missing out on life’s events. This is 6-10 years that can be gained by just following a gluten-free diet.
If you are reading this and thinking “I have some of these symptoms,” check out Celiac Central at http://www.celiaccentral.org. They have great information on symptoms, living gluten-free and how to work with family and friends as you change your diet. For a local support system, you can find Gluten Free Grand Valley on Facebook. There you will find recipes and suggestions on food items and restaurants. We also meet the first Wednesday of each month at the Masonic Center. Most of all, we want to make sure that when living gluten-free becomes a necessity, there is support.
If you see a light green ribbon, this is a show of support for celiac disease. Ask the person wearing it about their experience and why they support a gluten-free lifestyle.
Angela Wetzel has celiac disease and is president of Gluten Free Grand Valley, a support group for those with celiac disease and wheat allergies. Contact her at email@example.com or visit Gluten Free Grand Valley on Facebook.
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