Welcome to post #3 for Gluten Free Awareness Month! I know I said this probably a million and one times but I am so excited to be sharing with you guys all about the gluten free lifestyle! Whether it’s recipes or educating y’all on the lifestyle, I am grateful and so so blessed to be spreading the love and knowledge!
To kick off post three, and the second week, I am going to talk all about Celiac Disease! I will be sharing what it is, how you get it, and the truth behind it all. Again, I am super passionate about this so I am going to try my hardest not to ramble, but I think I got it under control 😉
*Before I start, I just want to clarify that I am not a doctor or medical professional. This post is based solely off of the information I obtained from my own readings and learned from my own experience as a Celiac.*
The Low Down on Celiac Disease
So, where to begin?! Let’s cover the basics first and explain what is Celiac Disease. But before I continue, if you haven’t already, go read post #1 on gluten (What IS Gluten? – Gluten Free Awareness Month Post #1), this post will make much more sense after reading that.
WHAT IS CELIAC DISEASE?
What is Celiac Disease? Celiac Disease is an auto immune disorder that is usually genetic (I find this odd because I am the only one in my family with diagnosed Celiac!!!) and causes damage to the small intestine when gluten is ingested. Here is a quick fact from the Celiac Disease Foundation website, “It is estimated to affect 1 in 100 people worldwide. Two and one-half million Americans are undiagnosed and are at risk for long-term health complications.” If that doesn’t get your mind questioning, keep on reading.
When an individual with Celiac consumes ANY gluten, it causes an immune response in the small intestine. In the small intestine there are tiny (fingerlike) extensions lining its’ wall, they are called villi. These villi are what allow our bodies to absorb nutrients. When the villi are damaged, nutrients are not properly absorbed, causing malnutrition and even more severe health problems.
Currently, there is only one treatment for this disorder and that is a STRICT gluten free diet. With a gluten free diet any symptoms usually go away but healing your gut can take years.
A common question I get asked all the time as a Celiac is “what happens when you eat gluten?”. It varies from person to person because we are all different, but for me, I had several symptoms. I won’t go into too much detail, (I will later write a post on my journey of Celiac Disease) however, I experienced extreme bloating that made me look 6 months pregnant, extreme nausea, no appetite because of the nausea but I was also starving because I wasn’t eating (see where malnutrition plays a part?), fatigue, achy muscles, and the list goes on.
Like I said, everyone is different. Some people even get rashes from ingesting gluten. I know those symptoms can seem very vague and ‘normal’ but if you listen to your body, you KNOW when something is wrong versus just having an ‘off’ day. Besides, these symptoms, for me, were ongoing and it took a year for me to get a diagnosis.
INTOLERANCE VS DISORDER
As new trends, diet fads, and supplements continue to float around the health and wellness community we can see that being ‘gluten free’ is becoming more and more popular. But, why? Is everyone getting diagnosed with Celiac Disease? No. Not everyone.
In fact, a majority of people who are gluten free don’t actually have Celiac Disease. They usually don’t eat gluten because it appears ‘trendy’ or because they have an intolerance to it. First, let me get one thing straight, being gluten free is not trendy by any means. It is difficult to properly eat gluten free, especially for someone like me. Did you know if you aren’t allergic to gluten but take it out of your diet you can actually make yourself intolerant to it? Gluten is the number one cause of bloat, so I understand why people may eliminate it from their diets. However, if you generally have a well balanced diet and exercise daily, gluten shouldn’t hurt you if you don’t have the disorder/intolerance! With that said, I am not bashing anyone who is gluten free without the disorder or intolerance, I am just saying it could end up doing more harm than good, and if you are able to eat gluten (without severe discomfort) then embrace it!
Now that that disclaimer is out of the way, let’s talk intolerance. Having an intolerance to gluten is not quite like having Celiac Disease. With the intolerance, a person can typically eat gluten without damaging their digestive tract but they experience discomfort after consuming a significant amount. Usually the individual doesn’t have to watch out for cross contamination. (Think of being lactose intolerant; eating ice cream would hurt but feta cheese on a salad might not).
Having actual Celiac Disease means a person cannot have gluten AT ALL. Not even trace amounts or it can make that individual very sick. When someone has the disorder they must read all ingredient labels and triple check when ordering out at a restaurant. Like I stated earlier, when a person with Celiac Disease ingest gluten it damages the lining of their gut, someone with an intolerance only experiences discomfort.
You thought I was done, huh? Nope! When a person has Celiac Disease many other health complications trickle down from it. An example of this would be leaky gut syndrome. Others include, IBS, acid reflux, lactose intolerant, and fructose/sugar intolerant, just to name a few.
Of course, these all depend on the individual but I can tell you from experience that I have encountered all of those listed.
I know this post was longer than most, as well as very informative, but I hope I cleared up any questions you may have had regarding gluten and/or Celiac Disease. Understanding gluten and Celiac Disease can become pretty complex and I only hit the tip of the iceberg. This is something I hold close to my heart and am very passionate about it because I have Celiac Disease.
Share your thoughts with me! Comment below or head to my Instagram page (@iamdevonjade)!