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May Is Celiac Disease Awareness Month: Here's What to Know

female standing painWhile gluten in its various forms can be safely consumed by some of the population, this protein found in wheat and wheat products like farina, kamut, semolina and spelt; barley, and rye can wreak havoc on the health of those with celiac disease. As May marks Celiac Disease Awareness Month, it’s important to highlight this often misunderstood condition and provide helpful insights for those affected.

What Is Celiac Disease and Who Is Affected?

Celiac disease (CD) is an autoimmune disorder where the immune system mistakenly attacks the small intestine’s villi, leading to inflammation, and malabsorption of essential nutrients and has many downstream effects. CD affects approximately 2 million Americans, with research indicating that 1 in 133 people may have the condition, whether diagnosed or not. It’s more common among people of European ancestry and those with a family history of celiac disease or other autoimmune disorders like Hashimoto’s or rheumatoid arthritis.

“People with celiac disease experience an autoimmune response that attacks the small intestine’s villi, impairing nutrient absorption,” said Gabrielle Grandell.

This disease can also affect those with other gastrointestinal conditions, such as IBS, which can further complicate diagnosis.

Gabrielle also noted that there are a lot of people who don’t have full-blown CD; but instead have extreme gluten sensitivity or intolerance.

Recognizing the Symptoms

Symptoms of celiac disease often include gastrointestinal issues like abdominal pain, bloating, diarrhea, constipation, reflux, and nausea. However, the effects of nutrient malabsorption can lead to additional health issues, such as fatigue, headaches, mood disorders, osteoporosis, and skin issues. “Undiagnosed and untreated celiac disease can lead to other autoimmune conditions due to the impact on the gut microbiome, chronic inflammation and nutrient deficiencies,” said Gabrielle.

How Is It Identified?

A common method for diagnosing celiac disease involves a small intestine biopsy, which helps assess villi damage. However, as Gabrielle pointed out, “The small intestine has a vast surface area, and biopsies can sometimes miss affected tissue.”

She recommends blood tests like the Wheat Zoomer from Vibrant America to provide more comprehensive testing; this test assesses sensitivity and allergic reactions to wheat, autoimmune disease, intestinal barrier stability and gluten peptides’ inflammatory and immune system impact. Testing gluten sensitivity before a full-blown diagnosis can allow people to switch to a GF diet and begin healing before the disease worsens.

Managing Celiac Disease: Practical Tips

Gabrielle also recommends the following:

  • Read Labels Diligently: Gluten hides in many packaged foods, so ensure products have a gluten-free certification.
  • Prioritize Whole Foods: Fresh fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, fruits, legumes, and proteins are naturally gluten-free.
  • Explore Alternatives: Many gluten-free versions of bread, pasta, and baked goods are available, so find what suits your taste.
  • Beware of Cross-Contamination: Be cautious when dining out or in shared kitchens, as gluten may inadvertently come into contact with your meal.
  • Personal Care: Some personal care products contain gluten, so seek out certified gluten-free products if sensitive.

Healing and Recovery Time

After diagnosis and switching to a gluten-free diet, the recovery timeline varies from person to person based on their genetics and disease progression. People usually feel steadily better as they stick to the changes. Those with heightened neurochemical responses to gluten might experience withdrawal symptoms initially, but after about two weeks, those fade.

Reclaim Your Health

If you suspect gluten sensitivity, testing early can help prevent the condition from advancing and support a smoother transition to a gluten-free lifestyle. Reach out to Gabrielle today to schedule an appointment.


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