It is amazing how far Celiac Disease Awareness has come in the almost 10 years since I was diagnosed. There are a few things I am happy about and a few things I would LOVE to see change as we try to raise awareness of Celiac Disease.
For those of you new to the Celiac world- according to The University of Chicago Medicine Celiac Disease Center, Celiac disease is an inherited autoimmune disorder that affects the digestive process of the small intestine. When a person who has celiac disease consumes gluten, a protein found in wheat, rye and barley, the individual’s immune system responds by attacking the small intestine
and inhibiting the absorption of important nutrients into the body. Undiagnosed and untreated, celiac disease can lead to the development of other autoimmune disorders, as well as osteoporosis, infertility, neurological conditions and in rare cases, cancer.
Things that make me happy about where we have come with Celiac Awareness:
- Every grocery store has some type of gluten free offering beyond just Whole Foods and specialty stores.
- Restaurants are beginning to educate their staff better to avoid cross contamination.
- Friends and family care and actually want to learn what “gluten-free” means- sometimes even taking steps to avoid cross contamination and make you a meal.
- We are seeing more and more restaurants that are dedicated gluten-free (no worries about cross contamination!!)
- Sooo many recipes online!!! I have found the joy of cooking through this diagnosis.
- Travel has gotten so much easier. I have enjoyed trips on Cruises to the Caribbean, Ireland and Italy that were amazing and I didn’t go hungry once!
Things I would LOVE to see changed about Celiac Awareness:
- The question: is this a serious allergy when I say I am “gluten-free” and “living with Celiac Disease.” I dream of a day when I see “gluten-free” on the menu and I don’t have to say a word afterwards. I hate to say it but french fries fried in the same oil as breaded chicken fingers should not be labeled gluten-free.
- Stop making fun of the gluten-free diet. Yes there is a large percent of the population who use gluten-free as a diet tactic but there is an even larger group of people- approximately 3 million- that have to follow this diet to stay alive.
- Incorporate a laws- similar to what these countries have done– to protect people living with Celiac Disease.
- Stop using gluten-free labeling as a marketing tactic. There are laws in place but there is no one enforcing these laws.
- Provide better subsidies for those of us living with Celiac Disease. Gluten-free goods are very expensive. When I went gluten-free my grocery bill per week was $50 more expensive and continues to be that way. Thank goodness I live near a Trader Joes!
- Educate more primary care physicians on the signs and symptoms of Celiac Disease. When I was diagnosed, almost 10 years ago, my physician was very skeptical when I asked to be tested for Celiac Disease. I had done a ton of research online and that was the only thing I could find that matched my symptoms. She is one of the top doctors in our area and she thought it was a waste of time. But she did it and was extremely supportive when the results came back.
What has your experience with Celiac Disease been?