Celiac disease is a genetic autoimmune disorder affecting 3 million Americans. A person who has this affliction can’t consume gluten — a protein found in wheat, rye and barley — since their immune system will respond by attacking the small intestine and inhibiting the absorption of important nutrients. If left undiagnosed or untreated, celiac disease can lead to other disorders, including cancer, osteoporosis and infertility. National Celiac Disease Awareness Day, which takes place on September 13, is a good time to examine this subject more fully in order to learn as much as we can about it.
National Celiac Disease Awareness Day - History
Researchers had a breakthrough
Scientists in Birmingham, England, linked celiac disease with gluten for the first time.
Celiac and children
American physician Christian Herter published a book on children afflicted with what he dubbed "intestinal infantilism."
Celiac disease is diagnosed
Greek physician Aretaeus described celiac disease, which he called koiliakos (abdominal) infection.
How to Observe National Celiac Disease Awareness Day
1. Try a gluten-free diet
Some people — unaware of their own sensitivity to gluten — find that they feel much better when they stop eating foods containing the protein.
2. Learn where gluten hides
Foods like soups, salad dressings, and soy sauce can unexpectedly contain gluten. Verify by checking with the kitchen staff if you're eating at a restaurant.
3. Get in the habit of reading labels
This is always good advice, whether you're suffering from celiac disease or not. One of the best ways to monitor our health is to monitor what we put in our bodies.
5 Important Things To Know About Celiac Disease
1. Who gets it?
Celiac disease is more common in Caucasians, women, people with Down syndrome, and patients with type 1 diabetes.
2. Gluten sensitivity and celiac disease are different
People with gluten sensitivity may experience bloating and diarrhea — but only people with celiac disease have compromised immune systems as a result.
3. The numbers are rising
The number of Americans with celiac disease is increasing — possibly due to increased awareness and better diagnostic techniques.
4. Childhood symptoms
Digestive symptoms are more common in infants and children. These include abdominal pain, diarrhea, vomiting, and constipation.
5. Adult symptoms
The list is fairly long: Watch for (among other symptoms) unexplained iron-deficiency anemia, fatigue, bone or joint pain, arthritis, osteoporosis or osteopenia (bone loss), liver disorders, and depression.
Why National Celiac Disease Awareness Day is Important
A. Undiagnosed cases
The University of Chicago Celiac Disease Center estimates that about 97 percent of celiac cases go undiagnosed in the U.S., leaving many people to suffer needlessly.
B. It leads to questions — and, possibly, answers
It's the perfect time to ask questions about our overall health, especially since so many people are unaware that it can affect parts of the body that seem unrelated to the digestive system (e.g., skin rash, joint pain).
C. It may affect someone you know — or even you
Celiac disease reportedly affects 1 percent of all Americans, so this observance can help spread valuable information.