May is Celiac Disease Awareness Month!
Welcome back, friends! Sorry for the gap in posts. I’ve become the host body of some awful virus that’s determined to stick around for as long as possible. I’m hoping the end is near… for the virus, not me. Anyways, a word to the wise, there’s a nasty virus going around… pretty much everywhere, and you should avoid it at all costs. Wash your hands, don’t lick handrails, buy a bubble, etc.
Today, I’ve decided that we’ll just jump right into the post, rather than giving you all my schpiel beforehand. I will include it at the end for those of you who are not yet familiar with who we are, what we do, and why we’ve started this awareness blog. If you’re new, please give it a read! If you’re a veteran reader, thanks for coming back and I hope you’ve found something useful in my blogs! Our readers are so important to us, without you we wouldn’t be very successful in raising awareness at all. You are the key to it all. You are the catalysts of change and awareness. You can make the difference we strive to empower you to.
Today’s post is about Celiac disease. Now, I know what some of you are thinking, and that you may have rolled your eyes. Celiac has become the butt of the millennial food and health trend jokes. I think I know why that may be, too; People who are not truly gluten intolerant and just want to appear to be on the cutting edge of the latest food and health trends claim to have Celiac. And what that has done is create a sense of disbelief in the community for people who actually become very ill from ingesting gluten. It’s become so prevalent that people with Celiac have to convince servers that they need to be taken seriously, and to please convey that to the kitchen in the order. I guess my point with all of this is that, yes, it has become trendy to observe a gluten free diet, and no, not all of them have Celiac. But, the people who do have Celiac desperately rely on others, generally in the food service industry, to respect and honor their request for food that is gluten free. It is not just a diet for them. It is their life. Imagine that every time you wanted to go out with friends or family that you had to worry about whether or not the waiter was going to take you seriously and if you were going to become ill from just trying to have a meal out. That sucks! So, next time you hear someone order a gluten free meal, don’t roll your eyes and dismiss them because that only perpetuates a culture of disbelief for people who truly do suffer from the disease.
And now, with that, let’s dive right in, shall we?!
Celiac disease affects the small intestine. When someone who suffers from Celiac eats food with gluten in it, it triggers an immune response, which then causes the small intestine to become inflamed. One thing that not all people realize is that even short-term inflammation that occurs consistently leads to permanent damage. So, if someone with Celiac disease accidentally or unknowingly eats something with gluten in it a couple times a month (which is really easy to do), that adds up to long-term damage pretty quickly. The inflammation isn’t the only dangerous thing that occurs with Celiac disease, too. Celiac disease can prevent proper absorption of nutrients from food, which can lead to malnutrition or critical deficiencies in certain blood levels, for example iron or calcium, which is why so many people with Celiac also suffer from anemia and osteoporosis.
I think everyone associates Celiac with one particular symptom, which is (drumroll)… DIARRHEA! Yes, folks, that’s right, diarrhea is the telltale symptom of Celiac disease, and no, it’s not like your run (diarrhea pun intended) of the mill diarrhea. It’s a special, extra-painful kind of diarrhea because of the inflammation involved. Not to mention the potentially unbearable cramping, bloating, vomiting and gas that gluten can also cause someone who has Celiac disease (sometimes all at once). Some patient’s even end up in the emergency room because of how severe the pain becomes. Other symptoms of Celiac are less obviously related, such as seizures, abnormal periods, oral ulcers, weight loss, rashes, tingling in the legs, as well as muscle and joint pain or swelling.
Each patient experiences the disease differently and may not have all of the symptoms. One may not have diarrhea, but severe bloating instead (and I mean severe, I’m talking seven months pregnant belly). One may experience frequent vomiting and weight loss. Another may experience abnormal menstrual periods, intense cramping, anemia, and diarrhea, a combination that can look more like a reproductive issue than an intestinal one. As you can see, diagnosis may not be so readily apparent in all patients, which makes it difficult for some to be properly diagnosed. This results in people suffering for years, while permanent damage occurs to the body because preventative measures are not taken. Diagnosis is crucial in preventing serious long-term health issues that are caused by Celiac disease.
In addition, diagnosis can be difficult due to another autoimmune disease. As discussed, Celiac disease is an autoimmune disease. Autoimmune diseases occur when the body’s immune response is triggered and the body tries to fight what it believes is a foreign invader. For people with autoimmune diseases, the body mistakenly thinks that parts of their own body are invaders. Essentially, the body attacks itself, thinking that it is protecting itself. One autoimmune disease often brings his other autoimmune disease friends, making diagnosis very difficult. Many symptoms mimic other diseases or are very common across the autoimmune spectrum. It can take years to diagnose the first autoimmune disease, and only after that does it become clear there may be another one somewhere else. Some common autoimmune diseases associated with Celiac disease include Lupus, Thyroid disease, Type 1 Diabetes, Rheumatoid Arthritis, and Sjogren’s syndrome.
There are other issues that Celiac can cause, as well. Women who suffer from Celiac may experience reproductive issues such as inconsistent menstrual cycles, infertility, miscarriage, and birth defects in their babies. This is largely due to poor nutrient absorption caused by Celiac. Children with Celiac can experience significant growth issues due to malabsorption. Other problems caused by Celiac can include osteoporosis, intestinal cancer (although rare), seizures, and more.
So, how do you get a diagnosis? Well, it’s a fairly easy process, meaning that it is pretty painless. Your doctor will have to do a physical, and pay close attention to how you describe your symptoms. Food diaries may be requested. Granted it can be annoying to log your whole life into a food diary, it’s straightforward and you won’t have to do it forever, although, many patients find them extremely helpful in identifying certain problem foods. Your doctor will get a medical history, and may also ask about your family medical history, so come prepared. At the end of the appointment, the doctor will likely order blood labs to be drawn to test for certain antibodies that are high in people with Celiac disease. They may also draw labs for blood levels that can indicate malabsorption. In addition to those easier tests, you may be asked to provide a stool sample (everyone’s least favorite test to complete), or be asked to do a biopsy of the small intestine (they put you to sleep for that one). As far as testing goes, not so bad. So, if you or someone you know suspects that Celiac disease may be the cause of health issues, don’t hesitate to get yourself an appointment with your physician to talk about it. It’s an easy conversation to have, and it could save you from doing years of damage to your body.
And now… for the schpiel! If you’re new to our blog, thanks so much for reading! I hope you found it worthwhile, and maybe even learned a little something. The purpose of this blog is to raise awareness for a myriad of causes. We strive to create a more educated and aware society by crushing misconceptions and stigma surrounding health issues. Personalized Cause is the number one source for personalized awareness ribbons in the United States. We are the only company to provide low volume custom awareness ribbons; that means orders with even just a single personalized awareness ribbon.
Personalized Cause believes in the power of awareness. We know that one personalized awareness ribbon can humanize a nebulous disease, and inspire others to become educated and participate in raising awareness and funding. Personalized Cause was founded on the idea that every awareness ribbon represents a person to those that wear it. We believe that when you connect a person to a cause, you can transform the way others see and understand that cause because they see the person rather than just the illness. Custom awareness ribbons can be a silent sign of support, a symbol of courage, or even a source of inspiration. So, if you or someone you know is struggling or on a health journey, maybe checkout our custom awareness ribbons. If you want. No pressure.
All right everyone, catch you next time!
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