Healthier Together: Understanding Celiac Disease


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While we may be more aware than ever of the impact gluten has on many people’s health, celiac disease is still dramatically under diagnosed.

National Celiac Disease Awareness Day is Sept. 13. Celiac Disease is estimated to affect 1 in 100 people worldwide, but only about 30 percent are properly diagnosed.

Mom, Tracy Groves, has to think outside the box when it comes to packing lunch for school.

"Lucas is quite a picky eater, and most of the time I actually include chocolate milk because I know he’s going to have it and that way he’ll have a little bit of protein," said Groves. "The only treatment for celiac disease is to go completely gluten-free and that means no food no contamination no touching of anything that has gluten in it)."

After doctors diagnosed her 12-year-old son Lucas with celiac, Groves says the family has to be careful when it comes to reading labels and cross contamination.

"Celiac disease is a specific autoimmune condition that involves intolerance and allergic reaction to gluten, but it’s different than a general gluten sensitivity," said Dr. Nicole Saint Clair, executive medical director for Regence BlueShield. "I think that we hear these terms more often, and it can be difficult to understand what the differences are between the two conditions."

When it comes to celiac, the small intestine is damaged when the person consumes food containing gluten. Gluten is in wheat, rye, and barley, which is in many breads, pastas and processed foods.  Untreated, celiac can lead to long-term and serious health problems, like infertility, nervous system disorders and osteoporosis.

"Abdominal pain, diarrhea, bloating - all of these can happen after eating an offensive food and these symptoms can last a few hours - rashes or headache."

"Lots of people who have celiac disease go undiagnosed for long periods of time do semi-permanent damage to their intestines, and then they can’t eat other foods like dairy and oats," she said. "Just understand that you will make a few mistakes and try to be kind to yourself as well as you make the transition."



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