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National Celiac Disease Awareness Day

Think I’ll celebrate with a sandwich made on awesome gluten free bread.

Did you know that September 13th is officially National Celiac Disease Awareness Day? Today honors Samuel Gee, the doctor who connected the dots linking celiac disease to diet, who was born on September 13, 1839.

According to the University of Chicago Celiac Disease Center, at least 1% of the population has celiac disease. Unfortunately, most people with celiac have NOT been diagnosed yet.

Why does this matter?

From the Senate resolution

“Whereas because celiac disease is a genetic disease, there is an increased incidence of celiac disease in families with a known history of celiac disease;

Whereas celiac disease is underdiagnosed because the symptoms can be attributed to other conditions and are easily overlooked by doctors and patients;

Whereas a delay in the diagnosis of celiac disease can result in damage to the small intestine, which leads to an increased risk for malnutrition, anemia, lymphoma, adenocarcinoma, osteoporosis, miscarriage, congenital malformation, short stature, and disorders of the skin and other organs;

Whereas celiac disease is linked to many autoimmune disorders, including thyroid disease, systemic lupus erythematosus, type 1 diabetes, liver disease, collagen vascular disease, rheumatoid arthritis, and Sjogren’s syndrome”

In other words, undiagnosed celiac disease causes a lot of problems.

What a difference a decade makes

I had many symptoms (fatigue after eating, migraines, nausea, dizziness, bouts of diarrhea, heartburn) for years, but they were sporadic. When things started escalating, I was misdiagnosed and treated for depression along with unspecified blood and thyroid disorders.

A blood test was negative for celiac. There are false negatives, after all.  Because I became so anemic that I’d pass out occasionally, my MD ordered a colonoscopy. It was sheer luck that the doc doing the procedure asked for permission to do an endoscopy (no big deal, you’re sedated before the tube goes down your throat) and took samples of the small intestine that showed total villous atrophy. No wonder I could eat tons of food and never gain weight – I wasn’t absorbing anything.

I’m one of the lucky ones.  Aside from allergy meds, eating gluten free is all it takes for me to stay healthy. The University of Chicago Celiac Disease Center is an excellent resource for current information about celiac.  You can even download PDF fact sheets to share with medical professionals who need to learn the basics. Please share this info with anyone who might benefit. You could literally save someone’s life.

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