September 13 has been declared National Celiac Disease Awareness Day, and we hope everyone takes the opportunity to raise support and awareness for people living with Celiac disease every day. Almost 3 million Americans live with Celiac disease, and 97 percent of them go undiagnosed or misdiagnosed. Because celiac is a disease that can go undiagnosed for years, we should take every opportunity to raise awareness about the condition.
There is no cure for Celiac disease, and the only medically accepted treatment is a 100 percent gluten-free diet. Celiac disease is not a food allergy, but an inherited, autoimmune disease which damages the lining of the small intestine when gluten is ingested. Gluten can be found in many common food items, including breads, cakes, candy, cereal, condiments, cookies, pasta, pizza, pretzels and soups.
A person with Celiac disease may experience intermittent diarrhea, abdominal pain, bloating, upset stomach, irritability, depression, joint pain, muscle cramps, fatigue or anemia. These symptoms resemble several other conditions like irritable bowel syndrome, gastric ulcers and Crohn’s disease, and therefore, a Celiac patient can go undiagnosed or misdiagnosed for years.
To find out more about symptoms and diagnosis of Celiac disease, see our previous blog post, Going Gluten-Free.
As awareness is raised and more people are diagnosed, the Celiac community is growing ,and more gluten-free products are appearing on the shelves. Through the raised awareness of the disease, a gluten-free diet is becoming easier and more convenient. For a list of gluten-free products and dietary tips, see our earlier post, How to be Worry Free about Gluten-Free.
If you’ve had a friend or family-member receive a diagnosis of Celiac disease, you know it means a complete lifestyle change. Help support Americans living with Celiac disease by raising awareness today on National Celiac Disease Awareness Day. The better informed people are about Celiac disease, the better we as doctors can diagnose and help people manage the disease.