Let’s be real for a minute, the gluten-free craze is out of hand! The assumption that I am being “trendy” on a “gluten-free diet” is a battle people like me with Celiac disease are dealing with every.single.day.
I am not only avoiding gluten because I have a reaction to it, I am avoiding gluten because I have an autoimmune disease that thinks gluten is an enemy. My body was for years, and will be if I continue to eat gluten, be under a constant war internally.
I’m on my mission to bring awareness about Celiac, as I navigate my gluten free world in a world where gluten is in nearly 80% of the foods in our grocery stores. So, let’s check out some interesting facts about Celiac Disease:
- Celiac disease is a serious autoimmune condition that causes people’s immune system to violently attack the villi in their small intestines whenever they ingest gluten and interferes with the absorption of nutrients from food. Okay, wow. That is intense. It’s like a war going on in our bodies, all the time.
- Celiac disease can lead to many other disorders including some cancers, neurological disorders, infertility, reduced bone density and other autoimmune diseases. Kind of scary!
- People with one autoimmune disease (like Celiac) have a 25% chance of developing another autoimmune disease. For me, I have Celiac and Hypothyroidism, an extremely common combination.
- Celiac disease can develop at any age and can show up later in life even after you have tested negative for it. Okay that is alarming.
- It is estimated that 1 in 133 Americans or about 1% of the population have Celiac disease. This is a major increase within 2 decades when the odds were about 1 in 10,000 just 20 years ago. Again, wow! This is a really big increase!
- 5-22% of people with Celiac disease have an immediate family member (first degree relative) who also has Celiac disease. Alright, who in my family still needs to get tested???
- Another estimation is that 83% of Americans who have Celiac disease, are undiagnosed or misdiagnosed with other conditions. This girl is raising her hand!!! This was me for YEARS!
- It takes an average of 6-10 years for a person to be correctly diagnosed. About 15 years for me! UGH!
What gets me is the fact that people are going so long without a diagnosis. Going on with life, sick all the time. Not absorbing foods. Living a life of malnutrition and living with so much damage being done to their body. For me, it took almost 15 years.
People with Celiac disease may experience a variety of symptoms from fatigue to constipation to infertility or joint pain. The most common symptoms are gastrointestinal symptoms like gas, bloating, indigestion, heartburn, etc. Also fatigue, low blood count and osteoporosis. Many people have no symptoms.
The emotional stress that those of us with Celiac disease carry is overwhelming:
- FEAR – The fear and worry we have that we may accidentally ingest gluten and get sick.
- SADNESS – Living with a chronic illness is nothing to take lightly. It can be a struggle to maintain happiness.
- ANXIETY – Losing control is hard for anyone. With Celiac, being in a situation when you have no control over the foods being served, it can bring on anxiety worrying about how safe the items are.
- UNTRUSTING – Since we are always on guard with constant worry about the foods we eat, it is hard for us to trust and let go.
- ISOLATION – Let’s be honest, most of the time we are surrounded by food. Events, social situations, parties, sports events, etc. They all have food involved. This reminds us of how different we are from the rest and can bring on a lonely or isolating feeling.
Now besides Celiac disease, there is also Gluten Sensitivity. Celiac disease and Gluten Sensitivity are different. There may be similarities such as bloating and diarrhea after consuming items with gluten in them. The difference is that people with Celiac disease have an immune system response that disrupts the body’s ability to absorb vitamins, minerals and nutrients.
The only treatment for Celiac disease: a lifelong 100% gluten-free diet.
Celiac disease is not something to take lightly. I am not an expert by any means, just doing my best to live a life free of painful symptoms and help my body heal from the damage. So, goodbye gluten. I won’t miss you. Well, I’m lying, sometimes I do miss it. I wonder if I can convince them to make a gluten free Guinness?!
“Never allow anyone to take away your sparkle. Be kind and laugh and love often.”