Bread, pasta, and cereal are some of the most basic – and many would say bland -- foods in the American diet. But they’re not for people who have celiac disease. May is Celiac Disease Awareness Month, designed to raise awareness and funding for critical research. It’s wise to know about this disease because many Americans are living with it, and many have it -- but don’t know it.
What is celiac disease?
Celiac disease is a chronic autoimmune condition which damages the small intestine. It’s caused by the body’s reaction to gluten, a protein found in wheat, barley, and rye. When someone with the condition eats gluten, the body overreacts and attacks the lining of the small intestine which causes swelling. Over time this damage makes it difficult for the person to absorb nutrients and it can cause many other ailments.
How common is it?
More than two million Americans have celiac disease. About another two and a half million Americans have undiagnosed celiac disease. Worldwide estimates show that about one in 100 people are affected by celiac disease.
How do you get celiac disease?
This condition isn’t something you contract or that you can prevent. Celiac disease is genetic, meaning it’s passed down from parents to their children.
What are the symptoms?
Celiac disease can develop at any age and there are more than 200 symptoms associated with it, so it can be difficult to diagnose. And some people have the disease but no symptoms. Doctors use physical exams, medical histories, blood tests, and genetic tests to diagnose the condition. Some common symptoms include:
- Chronic abdominal pain, constipation, gas, and diarrhea
- Weight loss
- Rashes and sores in the mouth
- Unexplained anemia
- Tingling in the legs
Celiac disease is also linked to medical complications that can have serious long-term effects including malnutrition, infertility, and osteoporosis.
How is celiac disease treated?
There are no treatments for celiac disease other than maintaining a strict, gluten-free diet for life. That means not eating any foods with gluten and being careful about “cross contamination,” for instance coming into contact with cutting boards and knives used to cut bread.
For people living with celiac disease, understanding the condition, learning how to avoid gluten, and knowing how to maintain a balanced, gluten-free diet are essential. Mom’s Meals® supports people living with celiac disease and people with gluten sensitivity by offering a full gluten free menu that meets FDA guidelines.