The following illness is one that holds a deeper wound in me than any other.
Celiac Disease is an inherited autoimmune disease affecting 1 in every 100 Americans. This condition damages the lining of the small bowel, preventing it from absorbing nutrients from foods.
When an individual with Celiac Disease eats food that contains gluten (wheat, barley, and rye), the immune system has an abnormal reaction to it. This reaction destroys the villi in the small intestine, making it difficult for sufferers to get the nutrients they need to stay healthy.
Symptoms of Celiac Disease
Getting a diagnosis
Your doctor will gather a medical history and examine you. They will also send you for blood work. If the blood test comes back positive for Celiac Disease, your doctor will recommend a biopsy in order to confirm the diagnosis.
These tests for Celiac Disease must be done BEFORE eliminating gluten from your diet. If you have already eliminated gluten from your diet, your doctor may ask you to re-introduce some gluten back into your diet in order to diagnose you properly.
While there is no cure for Celiac Disease, there are ways to manage the disease. The main treatment is a strict gluten free diet for the rest of your life.
If Celiac Disease is left untreated, you open yourself up to a ton of complications, including: cancer, osteoporosis, infertility, and in extremely rare cases, death.
Nowadays, it has become easier for people to manage their Celiac Disease. Many stores throughout the country have entire aisles dedicated to gluten free eating. Still, it is important for you to familiarize yourself with labels.
I grew up with a grandmother that had Celiac Disease. She was diagnosed in the 1980s and the disease made her deathly ill. Back then, there was virtually nothing available to her. My grandfather had to drive to another state in order to get grains that she could tolerate. When he brought them back, he would grind them with blenders and mortal and pestles. He did this from the time he retired, until they moved into assisted living. Watching her get worse in health was very difficult. Even my grandfather was showing wear and tear. He had to hire someone to come in and help with my grandmother while he rested. I helped when I could during the summer months. My grandmother died in 2007.
In 2010-2011, I began feeling very ill. I had severe fatigue, diarrhea, extreme weakness, and I honestly thought I was dying. I went to the doctor and they did a blood test. The call I got one October afternoon in 2011 changed my life. The doctor said I tested "very positive" for Celiac disease. A biopsy later on confirmed it, and I started my gluten free journey. After my diagnosis, I remember crying during my first grocery store visit. I spent a few hours in the store because gluten free food was not as widespread as it is now. I read every label in the store, familiarizing myself with ingredients.
While things may seem a lot easier for us Celiacs, we still have to be cautious. This is a life or death situation for us. This isn't some allergy. This is a real disease, with real complications.
I cannot stress this enough, if you suspect that you may have Celiac Disease, DO NOT begin a gluten free diet until you've seen your doctor. You need a proper diagnosis.