May is Celiac Disease Awareness Month. This blog is a tribute to my sister Armelle who was diagnosed with celiac disease in the late 90s after three months of being violently ill. She is, however, one of the lucky ones. She was diagnosed by the first gastroenterologist she saw only three months after her first symptoms appeared. She would have been diagnosed even sooner had she not waited to see her doctor. On average, people with celiac disease are misdiagnosed for ten years. I am writing this blog to those of you who have had unexplained symptoms in hopes that you can get the proper diagnosis and help.
What is Celiac Disease?
Celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder triggered by the ingestion of gluten, a protein found in wheat, barley and rye – (some think that it’s because of the hybridization of wheat to increase it’s protein content (in modern speak, it’s referred to as GMO)). It is estimated that 1 in 141 Americans has celiac disease, yet 83% of those who have this disease are either undiagnosed or misdiagnosed.
What are the Symptoms of Celiac Disease?
There are more than 300 symptoms of celiac disease, and as with many diseases, symptoms may vary from person to person. One person might have depression and irritability while another may have diarrhea and abdominal pain. There are even some people with celiac disease have no signs or symptoms. Some people develop celiac symptoms early in life, while others get them far into adulthood.
Here are just some of the more common symptoms of celiac disease:
Getting proper diagnosis early on is critical. If left untreated, people with celiac disease can develop numerous conditions including other autoimmune diseases, infertility, osteoporosis, thyroid disease, arthritis, Type 1 Diabetes, and cancer.
Does any of this sound familiar? Think you may have celiac disease? Check out the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness website for a lot of valuable information including the Celiac Disease Symptom Checklist. You will also find research, studies, recipes and so much more at the Celiac Disease Foundation, an organization my sister has written articles for several times.
If you don’t have celiac disease (and I so hope you don’t), you could have a wheat allergy or be one of the 18 million Americans with a gluten-sensitivity. Those individuals with gluten sensitivity experience symptoms similar to those with celiac disease. The big difference is that they lack the same antibodies and intestinal damage as seen in celiac disease. I will post more information on gluten-sensitivity and wheat-allergy on tomorrow’s blog.
Remember to be proactive and to take your health into your hands. Do not stop until you are properly diagnosed and feel great. Life can be awesome! It may just require some adjustments.