Today is National Celiac Awareness Day, and, though I’ve written about my celiac diagnosis before, I always feel that I should share a bit on this day when it rolls around because celiac disease has had – and continues to have – such a significant impact on my life and also because it can be so life-altering for so many others as well.
People with celiac disease have a serious autoimmune response in our bodies whenever we ingest even a microscopic amount of gluten and this can lead to many symptoms systemically.
In my case, I had symptoms I did not realize were celiac disease for many years – GI issues and whatnot – but would be diagnosed when I became profoundly anemic due to a GI bleed as a result of my illness.
Then, though I immediately changed to a gluten free diet, as one autoimmune disease often tends to follow another, within a year or so, I would begin to develop symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis.
Unlike what is commonly being referred to as “gluten intolerance,” celiac disease is a genetic autoimmune disease that absolutely requires the avoidance of gluten.
A person who has celiac disease who is “glutened” becomes really ill.
What’s worse, these symptoms can last for weeks – AND they can trigger flares of other autoimmune diseases.
It’s no joke.
In the big picture, celiac disease – allowed to run amok in the body – can have even more dire consequences as well. I would point to this article from the Harvard Medical School about celiac disease and shortened life expectancy:
Unfortunately, with the advent of the “gluten-free dieting” craze that occurred not too long ago, some servers and food industry workers haven’t known that some gluten free orders are incredibly serious, for medical reasons and not weight loss. I have encountered this and been “glutened” and so has every other celiac I know.
Also, as someone who unfortunately has spent entirely too much time inpatient over the past few years, I have learned that, though it seems counterintuitive, hospitals are not at all celiac friendly. I thought it was just mine, until I wrote about how I can not ever get a proper GF meal – and frequently get things that would absolutely poison me if I were a newly diagnosed celiac and didn’t know better – only to hear many stories about other patients who have all experienced the same or worse.
This is apart from mislabeling and cross contamination concerns and all other food safety issues that come with celiac disease as well.
Finally, it can be incredibly expensive to maintain a gluten free diet. Gluten free products tend to cost substantially more for much less and are often more difficult to find as well.
All that said, it is crucial to our wellbeing that we avoid all sources of gluten – no matter how challenging this may be in some situations. There simply isn’t an acceptable second option.
Be well, everybody. Take care of yourselves and each other.
Grace and Blessings.