Friday, September 13, 2013

Celiac Awareness Day

I'll be honest, I had no idea it was National Celiac Awareness Day or even Month apparently!
But because I just randomly came across it, that means you get to hear about it. On the bright side
you get to learn a few things today though, right?

The Not-so-Formal Version of What Celiac Disease Is
Celiac is an autoimmune disease that reacts in the body after eating gluten. If you start a gluten free 
diet, you can reverse the damage that has been done in your small intestines. However, you will always 
have the disease. If gluten is not removed from the diet, the chances of bone density loss, reduced 
organ function, infertility and miscarriages, and cancer become quite high due to the damage 
over a long period of time.

Signs & Symptoms
When gluten is ingested it damages the villi in the intestines. The villi are the little bodies that grab 
onto the nutrients for absorption, but when damaged our bodies are not getting what they 
should. They should look like a plush carpet but with celiac disease, they all flatten out and are 
unable to do what they are suppose to in our body. Over time the intestinal lining can become
thin as well. The damage to the intestinal villa can cause low blood levels (anemia),
essentially a state of malnutrition since it becomes very difficult to gain weight and
maintain a good nutritional status, and other fun signs & symptoms such as these:

*awesome gas aka bubble gut
*poopy pants aka diarrhea
*abdominal pain
*skin rash

Where Is Gluten Found?
Gluten can be found in more products than you can even imagine! Things such as rye, barley, 
wheat, soy sauce, dressings, candies, chips, soups, seasoned rice mixes, processed lunch
meats, imitation seafood meats, and ice creams and other baked desserts. And to take it even further, 
some foods are considered 'gluten free' however it may say on the label that it was
possibly contaminated in the facility. Crazy, right? Just another thing to steer clear of in case it 
did get contaminated.

It seems like nearly everything does until you really get into reading labels to find out what is in 
the product. So no, not everybody is checking calories on the labels...some of us are checking 
for words like "diarrhea" aka gluten.

Think You Have Celiac Disease?
To start, it doesn't hurt to make an appointment with your doctor to speak with a professional
about your symptoms. They may or may not be Celiac related, but it could indicate further testing to
see what's going on in your body. If your doctor is concerned, he or she will send you to a 
gastrointestinal physician. Blood tests may be necessary to check for antibodies for gluten and 
a confirmation of the disease would be to have an endoscopy. An endoscopy is where the doctor 
puts you in a mild sleep for the procedure, places a scope down through the upper GI, and 
takes a biopsy. The biopsy will confirm your diagnosis at that point, which usually 
returns within 3-5 days.

I know my generation is a 'I want it now' and 'I want to be fixed, now' type of crowd.
Unfortunately with Celiac disease, there are no medications that cure the disease. It's a matter
of patience, research, and ability to stick to the gluten free diet. That's it! Usually after several
weeks you will start to feel an improvement in your health and don't we all like that idea
(especially after all those lovely bathroom accidents or rumbly stomachs in a quiet crowd).
Vitamins and minerals may be suggested at the beginning by a doctor to promote the nutrients
back into your system, but please check with the doctor before starting your own regimen. 

What's The Difference Between Gluten Intolerance/Sensitivity & Celiac Disease?
As stated above, Celiac disease is an autoimmune disease and can be very harmful to your body
when ingested as it can cause damage to your small intestines (which then causes the symptoms
and chronic illnesses above). With a gluten intolerance or sensitivity, people generally have
some minor reaction or a couple symptoms similar to Celiac disease. You do not get the
damage in your intestines from having a sensitivity like you would with Celiac disease.

My Story: The Quick & Minimally-Detailed Version
I can remember in my early twenties not wanting to go out with people because of my
bubble gut, being so anxious during nursing school classes as that gut of mine was louder than
the speaker, and all those lovely incidences I was so fortunate (not!) to use nearly any and
every restroom in the area I grew up in (behind trees, porta potties, family homes, stores, down
embankments, etc). I can recall being anemic since my early teens, quite pale at times, and I could
definitely hold my own in an eating contest. I suppose that was the only benefit pre-Celiac diagnosis...
I could eat and never feel full! That's what happens when you're not digesting anything. After the
diagnosis I had that moment of hatred for the disease and mainly because I loved, loved, loved all
food and mostly, all desserts! That was taken away and so was my freedom to eat anywhere and
as much as I wanted. However, I had both my family and Ty's family on board with the diet
change and it's amazing what recipes everybody came up with. Now you'd never even know what
is celiac friendly and what's not with some of the great recipes we've come across. Everything out
there that is gluten filled can be made into a gluten free version and perhaps, taste even better!
Now if we could only get my Celiac Dad on board with it all to save him from all the
long term issues of Celiac disease!

Of course, there's plenty more great stories to go along with all those years of pre-diagnosis but
those can be saved for another time! I have to give lots of thanks to all my family who cooked
for me during the years I spent so much time in your home (my parents, Ty's parents, and
my grandparents). I definitely wouldn't be so gluten-free if I
didn't have all that extra help!

Happy Celiac Awareness Day!

♡The Stanleys