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May is National Celiac Disease Month

Why eating gluten is not an option for so many Americans.

Whether you are personally impacted by celiac disease or not, it’s important to understand why going gluten-free is a medical necessity for some—and not just another trending diet.

Celiac disease affects nearly 3 million individuals and can present with over 200 different symptoms—and sometimes no symptoms at all. Therefore, celiac disease can be extremely challenging to properly diagnose and it is estimated that 83% of people with celiac disease are undiagnosed or misdiagnosed with another condition.

A genetic autoimmune disorder, if left untreated, celiac disease puts individuals at greater risk for other health conditions, including osteoporosis, thyroid disease and certain cancers.

When one has celiac disease, the body views proteins found in wheat, rye and barley as harmful. This leads to damage of the small intestine when these foods are ingested and ultimately impacts one’s ability to absorb many nutrients.

The only treatment for celiac disease is a strict gluten-free diet, free of wheat, rye and barley. It’s important to know that the smallest amount of ingested gluten can trigger damage in someone with celiac disease.

Sometimes, celiac disease is an asymptomatic disease—meaning individuals experience no symptoms at all—though the most common signs include anemia, anxiety, depression, fatigue, headache, thin bones, poor weight gain and digestive issues including constipation, bloating, diarrhea and gas.

Living gluten-free can impact emotional well-being. Whether planning a tropical vacation, eating in a college dining hall or attending a holiday dinner with family, someone with celiac disease may worry if they’ll have access to safe food. Additionally, factors such as the affordability of gluten-free foods, worry over cross-contact with gluten-containing foods, and not wanting to feel different from everyone else can all impact mental and emotional health.

Want to learn more about celiac disease and meet others who are living gluten free? Join us for an open conversation about gluten-free living and have your nutrition questions answered by a registered dietitian at our monthly Virtual Support Group meetings in collaboration with the National Celiac Association. Learn more and register at www.bigy.com/livingwell/getsocial.