Tomorrow kicks off a month that is very personally important to me. It’s May, yes, which means nice weather, blooming flowers, the start of summer barbecues, evening beach walks, and Greatist’s move to NYC.
But it’s also Celiac Awareness Month. As someone who was relatively unaware of this disease— I had heard of it once or twice in a few nutrition and culinary classes— my diagnosis last March came as quite a shock. Actually, more like an 18-wheeler careening down the highway at 90 miles an hour and slamming into a brick wall. The only cure for Celiacs is a completely gluten-free diet,which means cutting out all gluten, the protein found in wheat, rye, and barley. Basically, Celiac sufferers can kiss any conventional breads and baked goods goodbye— forever. Even a speck invisible to the naked eye can make us sick. I thought my life was over, that surely I could not last my last year in college without drinking beer (which, because of it’s raw materials of barley or wheat, sadly, is basically liquid gluten).
But, the last year has been more of an adventure than a death sentence. And I was lucky enough to discover my disease at a time when more and more companies are entering the gluten-free product markets, including Betty Crocker and Bisquick!
So why should you care about this month? Well, because 1 in 100 Americans have Celiacs, and 97% of those with the disease will suffer their entire lives without a correct diagnosis. Some people don’t even have symptoms. But while everything is fine and dandy on the outside, your intestines are getting eaten alive on the inside— literally. Celiacs is an autoimmune disease, so when a sufferer’s intestine absorbs gluten, their bodies see the molecules as an intruder, and set out to attack it, destroying the lining of the intestine while at it. This can lead to loads of long-term problems like malabsorption, osteoporosis, and arthritis.
Bottom line? If you have mysterious stomach pains and problems, are losing or gaining weight without change in diet or exercise, or even if you feel weak and exhausted, Celiac Disease could be the culprit, and it can’t hurt to talk to a doctor. If I hadn’t come across reference to the disease in a random article I found (much like this one!), I would most likely still be feeling miserable all the time. Here are some great resources if you think Celiac Disease might be effecting you:
Celiac Disease at the Mayo Clinic: Symptoms, risk factors, and other essential details
Celiac.com: Everything you need to know from symptoms and resources to recipes and popular gluten-free bloggers.
Gluten-Free Girl and Chef: One of the best gluten-free blogs out there... and the one that got me excited to get in the kitchen and cook again!