Gluten-free products are now readily available in many grocery stories – and for good reason. One in 133 Americans has celiac disease, an autoimmune digestive disease that damages the villi of the small intestine and interferes with the absorption of nutrients from food. As a result, people with celiac disease cannot tolerate gluten, a protein that is found in wheat, rye and barley products.
On September 13th, the United States recognizes Celiac Awareness Day as a result of a resolution passed by the Senate. The date has special meaning as it’s the birthday of Dr. Samuel Gee, the British pediatrician who offered the first full clinical picture of celiac disease in 1888 and also theorized that a special diet may help. Thanks to his research as well as ensuing medical advances, it is now possible to be tested for celiac disease antibodies and undergo further diagnostics, including a genetic test and/or biopsy. There are also numerous products, recipes and resources to support those on a gluten-free diet.
The problem, however, is that many people go undiagnosed. According to the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness (NFCA), which sponsors their own awareness month in May, 95% of celiac patients are undiagnosed or misdiagnosed. That means that up to three million Americans are suffering from the symptoms of celiac disease – which can include bloating, abdominal pain, diarrhea, nausea, migraines, rashes and joint pain – without knowing why. See this helpful checklist for a full list of symptoms as well as other conditions commonly linked with the disease. For example, a recent study found that celiac disease prevalence was 5-10 times higher in those with multiple sclerosis.
Think you or a family member might have celiac disease? Wish you could discuss it with someone who can relate? You can! Here at PatientsLikeMe, 115 members report celiac disease. Explore their profiles and get to know a patient with celiac disease.