Medical News Today reports that Celiac Disease Awareness Month which runs throughout May is raising awareness of this common worldwide genetic disease, affecting as many as one percent of the United States population.
Simply put, Los celiac disease or celiac sprue is an autoimmune disease of the digestive system, according to an article in the Cleveland Jewish News. For those affected, gluten – a protein found in commonly consumed grains like wheat, rye, and barley – triggers an immune response in otherwise well-behaved antibodies. In this situation, antibodies attack and suppress villi – small hair-like structures that line the inside of the intestine – preventing them from doing the important work of pulling nutrients and vitamins from the food we eat.
Celiac disease doesn’t just masquerade as other conditions; like gastroesophageal reflux disease it can go undiagnosed for a lifetime, leaving those afflicted to live in discomfort for years. Vague symptoms include weight loss or weight gain, headache, depression, fatigue and stomach issues; the disease often gets mistaken for lactose intolerance or irritable bowel syndrome. Often it yields serious conditions like stomach cancer, osteoporosis, and lymphoma.
And that’s a real shame, because celiac disease isn’t just manageable; its damage is mostly reversible through adherence to a gluten-free diet. By eliminating wheat/rye flour-based breads, cakes and pastas, as well as watching out for hidden sources of gluten (breadcrumbs, soy sauces, certain brands of toothpaste, to name a few), the body is able to repair its villi and in turn properly nourish itself.
Along with many people in the US suffering from colon polyps, an estimated one in 133 Americans has celiac disease, making it one of the most common genetic conditions in the world. But here’s the shocker: About 97% of those affected don’t know they have it. Imagine how senselessly dangerous it would be if 97% of people who needed glasses didn’t wear them.
Ridding your diet of gluten as part of a conscientious colon cancer prevention plan is meant to improve quality of life, not destroy it. In time, learning to adapt the foods you love while keeping your digestive tract safe won’t just be easy, it’ll be second nature.
Celiac sufferers have been lobbying for better and more widely available products, and by the looks of well-stocked store shelves from Whole Foods to Walmart, we’re winning. As rice and quinoa pastas, yogurts, gluten-free flour blends, and even pizzas become more readily available, it’s clear celiac disease is no longer a dietary death sentence. And that’s without even counting mouthwatering naturally gluten-free foods like fresh, crisp watermelon or sharp cheddar cheese.
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