3 Things You Should Know About Celiac Disease

3thingsaboutceliac

If you’ve been following my blog for any amount of time, then you probably know that I am the mom of 3 kiddos with multiple food allergies and two of them also have Celiac disease.

In addition to it being Asthma and Allergy Awareness month, May is also Celiac Awareness Month so I’ve been thinking about ways that I can help raise awareness around Celiac disease. I’ve asked myself, “What do I want people to know about Celiac?” After pondering this question, I’ve come up with the top three things I wish everyone knew.

3 Things You Should Know About Celiac Disease

#1. Celiac Disease is a Growing Health Problem

Currently, about 1 in 133 people in the US have Celiac disease. The number of adults over 50 years of age with Celiac has more than doubled between the years of 1988 and 2012.(1) Research has shown the prevalence of Celiac disease in children to be 5 times higher than in adults.(2)

Research studies in both the United States and Europe show that Celiac disease is significantly more common now than it was a few generations ago. According to research by Joseph Murray, M.D., professor of medicine at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN, and colleagues, this increase reflects an actual increase in prevalence, not just a new awareness of the disease and more accurate diagnostic tools.(3)

The researchers found that Celiac disease is four times more common today than a half-century ago. Just as it is in case of food allergies, the increase cannot be a result of changes in the genetic factors that underlie Celiac disease.  It’s far more probable that the increase is due to an environmental change or changes such as a change in our diet and how our food is processed.(4)

A second environmental factor that may be contributing to the increase in Celiac disease (and other autoimmune and allergic disease) is what is known as the “hygiene hypothesis.” This theory proposes that the developing immune system has to be stimulated by exposure to infectious agents, bacteria, or parasites in order to develop properly. The less microbes we’re exposed to in our environment, the more susceptible we are to immune disorders and allergic diseases.(5)

#2. Celiac Disease is a Serious Health Issue

Celiac disease is more than a little tummy ache. Celiac is an autoimmune disease in which and individual’s immune system damages the  villi, the tiny, fingerlike projections on the inner lining of the small intestine. Villi normally absorb nutrients from food and pass the nutrients through the walls of the small intestine and into the bloodstream. Without healthy villi, people can become malnourished, no matter how much food they eat. This autoimmune response occurs when a person who has Celiac disease consumes gluten, a protein found in wheat, barley, and rye. Undiagnosed and untreated, Celiac disease can lead to the development of other autoimmune disorders, as well as osteoporosis, infertility, neurological conditions and in some cases, cancer.(6) The current treatment for Celiac disease is a strict gluten-free diet.

Individuals may experience a wide range of symptoms with Celiac. This often leads to misdiagnosis and underdiagnosis. According to the National Institue of Health, a person may experience digestive signs and symptoms, or symptoms in other parts of the body. Digestive signs and symptoms are more common in children and can include: abdominal bloating, chronic diarrhea, constipation, gas, pale, foul-smelling, or fatty stool, stomach pain, nausea, and vomiting. (7)

The inability to properly absorb nutrients when nutrition is critical to a child’s normal growth and development can lead to other health problems, such as:

  • failure to thrive in infants
  • slowed growth and short stature
  • weight loss
  • irritability or change in mood
  • delayed puberty
  • dental enamel defects of permanent teeth

The NIH states, that adults are less likely to have digestive signs and symptoms and may instead have one or more of the following symptoms:

  • anemia
  • bone or joint pain
  • canker sores inside the mouth
  • depression or anxiety
  • dermatitis herpetiformis, an itchy, blistering skin rash
  • fatigue, or feeling tired
  • infertility or recurrent miscarriage
  • missed menstrual periods
  • seizures
  • tingling numbness in the hands and feet
  • weak and brittle bones, or osteoporosis
  • headaches

Celiac disease can produce an autoimmune reaction which can spread outside of the gastrointestinal tract to affect other areas of the body, including the spleen, skin, nervous system, bones, and joints. Celiac disease is also commonly associated with other autoimmune disorders like thyroid autoimmune disease (Hashimoto’s, Graves’), type 1 diabetes, and rheumatoid arthritis. (8)

While Celiac disease does not have the swift, violent, acute reactions like the anaphylaxis associated with food allergies, it is serious and continuing to consume gluten can result in devastating long-term health problems.

#3. A Gluten-Free Diet is NOT Just a Trendy Fad Diet

You probably know someone who has “gone gluten-free” just to lose weight (or at least you’ve heard of people doing it). I have even seen people claim to have some sort of gluten sensitivity and still eat gluten at a restaurant.

In fact, my husband and I went out to dinner a few months ago and one woman told the waiter that she needed a special gluten free meal yet she proceeded to consume an item that we were told was “highly glutenous.” Yep, everyone was told it contained a high amount of gluten and she still consumed it. Unfortunately, this kind of behavior makes it harder for people who have Celiac disease, food allergies, and legitimate sensitivities because it makes waitstaff and servers skeptical.

I can’t tell you how many jokes and uninformed comments I have heard about the “gluten-free diet fad.”

As I mentioned before, a gluten-free diet is a necessity for those with Celiac. It’s not a fad or even a choice. It is a long-term commitment to one’s health.

Trust me, kids with Celiac disease don’t want to be trendy or special. They want to fit in with their friends and be able to eat what everyone else is eating, but alas, they can’t.

References

  1. Choung, R. S. “Celiac Disease Prevalence More than Doubled in US since 1988.” Celiac Disease Prevalence More than Doubled in US since 1988. Healio.com, 25 Feb. 2015. Web. 18 May 2016.
  2. Marine, M., et. al. “Result Filters.” National Center for Biotechnology Information. U.S. National Library of Medicine, 19 Dec. 2010. Web. 18 May 2016.
  3.  “A Changing Environment and the Increasing Prevalence of Celiac Disease.”– Celiac Disease Awareness Campaign. The National Institute of Health, 24 Sept. 2014. Web. 18 May 2016.
  4. “A Changing Environment and the Increasing Prevalence of Celiac Disease.”– Celiac Disease Awareness Campaign. The National Institute of Health, 24 Sept. 2014. Web. 18 May 2016.
  5. “A Changing Environment and the Increasing Prevalence of Celiac Disease.”– Celiac Disease Awareness Campaign. The National Institute of Health, 24 Sept. 2014. Web. 18 May 2016.
  6. “Celiac Disease (coeliac Disease, Sprue, 6p21.3).” SpringerReference(n.d.): n. pag. Celiac Disease Facts and Figures. The University of Chicago Celiac Disease Center. Web. 19 May 2016.
  7. “Celiac Disease.” Celiac Disease. National Institute of Health Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Disease, June 2015. Web. 19 May 2016.
  8. “Celiac Disease.” Celiac Disease. National Institute of Health Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Disease, June 2015. Web. 19 May 2016.
About Tiffany deSilva

Hi I'm Tiffany deSilva, MSW, CPC, CHC, Founder of BrightFire Living, LLC. I am a social worker, speaker, author, certified health, wellness and lifestyle coach, certified green living coach and toxic-free consultant. I am passionate about helping women like you to detox each area of your life, safeguard your family's health, and live life fully charged and completely lit up! I am on a mission to empower women and families who are managing food allergies, autoimmune disorders, and other modern chronic health conditions to live a safe, happy, and healthy life that truly lights your fire!

Feedback & Comments:

  1. As a fellow Celiac I couldn’t agree more wish more people understood Point #3 so much mis-information out there, great article will be I’m sharing.

  2. Tiffany, I LOVE these, especially the last point. I don’t have celiac but I do have gluten sensitivity plus fibromyalgia and hypothyroid, which are both very negatively affected when I eat gluten. It’s not trendy and cute to have to be constantly vigilant of every morsel of food I consume!

    • Tiffany deSilva says:

      Thanks, Deborah! Yes, it’s definitely not fun being so vigilant about everything you consume but it’s a necessity not trendy.

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