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May is National Celiac Disease Awareness Month

For people who don’t suffer from celiac disease, this autoimmune condition can be as hard to swallow as gluten is for those who have it. This serious intestinal disease is widely misunderstood and goes by many names, including celiac sprue and gluten-sensitive enteropathy. No matter what you call it, it’s time to call attention to the debilitating disease triggered by consuming gluten that disrupts the diets, digestion, health, and happiness of so many. That time is now; May is recognized as National Celiac Disease Awareness Month. Each May, the celiac community comes together to raise awareness and acceptance for the inherited intestinal disease in the hope of finding a cure. During National Celiac Disease Awareness Month, help clear up the confusion and share a grain of truth about one of the most common gut disorders to help end the stigma and suffering.

Many are going against the grain

Around one in 100 people worldwide have been diagnosed with celiac disease. What’s frightening is that only includes the people who have figured out they have it. Millions more suffer in silence because they have never been diagnosed or have been misdiagnosed in the past. Celiac disease is a chronic autoimmune disease that damages the small intestine and disrupts the absorption of nutrients from food. Also known as celiac sprue, people who have the intestinal disease can’t tolerate any gluten, which is a protein found in grains like wheat, rye, and barley that gives breads and baked goods their chewy texture. While gluten is found in many foods, it can also be hidden in surprising products and places, such as vitamins, medicines, and even the adhesive on stamps and envelopes.

Celiac disease impacts

Celiac disease is a family disease. The condition is hereditary, which means that it runs in families. In fact, people who have a first-degree relative with the intestinal disease have about a 10% chance of developing it. While family comes first when it comes to the causes of the disease, consuming any foods or products containing gluten is the trigger for the reaction. When people with celiac disease consume any gluten, their body overreacts by triggering an immune response that attacks the small intestine. The intestinal damage that results prevents much-needed nutrients from being properly absorbed by the body.

Attack the risk factors

Several factors can be among the reasons that put you at risk for celiac disease, including:

  • A family member with celiac disease
  • Having HLA-DQ2 or HLA-DQ8 genes
  • Suffering from other autoimmune diseases or gut disorders
  • Other genetic disorders, such as Down’s syndrome or Turner’s syndrome

Listen to your gut

When celiac disease strikes, you may not be aware of the symptoms—or that you have the disease at all. That’s because the intestinal damage happens slowly and the symptoms are so diverse that it can take years to get an accurate diagnosis. Some of the most common symptoms of celiac disease include:

  • Stomach pain
  • Fatigue
  • Bloating and gas
  • Diarrhea
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Constipation
  • Weight loss
  • Migraines and headaches
  • Joint pain
  • An itchy skin rash called dermatitis herpetiformis
  • Anemia
  • Depression

No gluten? No problem.

Today, the cure for celiac still remains a mystery. There still are not any medicines or surgical procedures for this type of gut disorder. If you experience any of the symptoms of celiac disease, consider speaking to your SignatureMD-affiliated doctor about getting screened with a simple blood test. Currently, the only treatment for celiac disease is following a strict, gluten-free diet. This means avoiding all foods and products that contain wheat, barley, and rye in any form. However, saying goodbye to gluten doesn’t mean you need to give up the joys of a gooey grilled cheese, your Sunday morning pancakes, Mom’s spaghetti, or the comfort of chocolate chip cookies. With more and more people embracing a gluten-free diet, you can find all kinds of gluten-free alternatives, from breads and baking mixes to pastas and bakery favorites, that let you have your cake—and other typical grain-based goodies—and eat it, too!

During National Celiac Disease Awareness Month, attack celiac disease head-on by spreading the word to raise awareness, understanding, and funds for research about the disease that attacks the bodies and lives of so many.