Our 10 year old son had been complaining of stomach pains for months. We even took him to the emergency room one night when he was doubled over in pain. Severe constipation was diagnosed, a strong schedule of Miralax was prescribed.
He already suffers from migraines, and the doctors are never happy with the amount of fluids he drinks each day. So we assumed he just needed to drink more.
Then one day I was talking to my mom. She was diagnosed with Celiac disease many years ago, and she had noticed some of the warning signs of Celiac Disease in our boy. Stomach pains. Constipation. Irritability. Migraines.
And the strongest evidence of all…several blood relatives already diagnosed with Celiac disease.
October is Celiac Disease Awareness Month
I know, I know. Every day is some “official day”. Every month is some “national month.” But the whole point of an “awareness month” is that people are often unaware of these important things!
And here is why being aware of Celiac disease is important. First, the numbers…
[Tweet “2.5 Million Americans have undiagnosed #Celiac disease”]
Many people try a gluten free diet for a variety of reasons these days. The diet can help with many problems people suffer from. Some consider themselves to have an allergy or to be intolerant of gluten.
But Celiac disease is not the same as having an allergy or an intolerance to gluten.
What is Celiac Disease?
Celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder. That means that people with Celiac have a body that reacts to gluten by sending their immune system to attack the small intestine.
Even a very tiny amount of gluten can negatively affect a person with Celiac.
For instance, a pizza place might claim to make a gluten free pizza. But if they make it in the same kitchen using the same tools (bowls, rolling pins, pizza cutters, etc) as their regular pizza, their “gluten free” pizza is still contaminated by gluten.
It’s not enough to make a product using gluten free ingredients. Even a small amount of gluten can cause an attack in people with Celiac disease.
Calling this product “gluten free” can mean a dangerous outcome for someone with Celiac.
In fact, for a product to be marked as “gluten free”, it must contain less than 20 parts per million of gluten.
Why does it matter?
For Celiacs, consuming gluten creates some bad side effects. But even worse is that over time, eating gluten can lead to even more serious and severe health problems.
Recent studies show that the longer a person waits to be tested and diagnosed with Celiac disease, the greater their chances of developing another autoimmune disorder such as:
- liver disease
- skin rashes
- type 1 diabetes
- and more
Obviously, those diseases can lead to even more serious symptoms and problems.
What are the signs of Celiac Disease?
Wondering how you can learn if you or a loved one has Celiac Disease? It’s not always easy to tell.
Some symptoms of Celiac Disease include (but aren’t limited to):
- a variety of ongoing stomach and intestinal problems (constipation, diarrhea, and more)
- extreme fatigue
- vitamin deficiency
- reproduction problems
- bone or joint pain
- and more
(For a great symptom checker, be sure to go to https://celiac.org/celiac-disease/symptomssigns/)
The trouble is that a person can also have Celiac Disease and show no outward symptoms at all.
Should I get tested?
Does this mean that all people should be tested for Celiac? Not at all. But the fact that it is hereditary can be a great clue for you. If any of your immediate family members has been diagnosed with Celiac Disease, you should have yourself tested, too.
Also, if you read the symptoms checker and discover that you have a family member or members with many of these symptoms, it’s a good idea to be checked.
What is the treatment?
The good thing is that if you are diagnosed with Celiac Disease, it can often be completely controlled by diet (rather than a regimen of pills or other medication).
And today there is a wealth of information, diet suggestions, and great recipes widely available to people who need it. You will likely be surprised at how many foods you can still enjoy or easily substitute for.
I strongly recommend that you visit celiac.org for a wealth of information and a symptom checker. This post has not been paid for in any manner at all, it’s simply a subject that is near and dear to my heart.
While many people will remove gluten from their diets to see how they respond, you should know that you must have gluten in your diet in order to test properly for this disease.
Do you or a loved one have Celiac Disease? What would you like others to know about it?