13 September 2012

Celiac Disease Awareness

Today is Celiac Awareness Day. So, since this directly affects my family, you, dear comrade, get to read all about. Or click the back button. Whatevs.

Celiac is:
An autoimmune disease. When gluten proteins enter into the tissues of the small intestine, to digest, the body views the tissue, not just the gluten, as an intruder and destroys it. The villi of the small intestine become so damaged that malabsorption occurs. I became magnesium deficient to the point where I developed seizures. My husband doesn't absorb zinc or lysine when he has damage.

Deadly. Celiac kills. Not directly, but indirectly via cancer caused by damage. Bowel cancer and lymphoma are particularly more common in Celiac sufferers. Also, because it's an autoimmune disease, the person with it becomes more likely to get another autoimmune disease.

Common. 1 in 133 people are estimated to have celiac disease.

Uncomfortable. The symptoms of Celiac Disease include: * refers to symptoms someone in my family has had to deal with.

  • Abdominal cramps, gas and bloating*
  • Anemia*
  • Borborygmi (stomach rumbling)*
  • Coetaneous bleeding
  • Diarrhea*
  • Easy bruising*
  • Epistaxis (nose bleeding)
  • Failure to thrive
  • Fatigue or general weakness*
  • Flatulence*
  • Fluid retention*
  • Foul-smelling or grayish stools that are often fatty or oily*
  • Gastrointestinal symptoms*
  • Gastrointestinal hemorrhage
  • Hematuria (red urine)*
  • Hypocalcaemia/ hypomagnesaemia*
  • Infertility
  • Iron deficiency anemia*
  • lymphocytic gastritis*
  • Muscle weakness*
  • Muscle wasting
  • Nausea*
  • No obvious physical symptoms (just fatigue, overall not feeling well)
  • Osteoporosis
  • Pallor (unhealthy pale appearance)*
  • Panic Attacks*
  • Peripheral neuropathy (nerve damage)*
  • Stunted growth in children*
  • Vertigo*
  • Vitamin B12 deficiency*
  • Vitamin D deficiency
  • Vitamin K deficiency
  • Vomiting*
  • Voracious appetite*
  • Weight loss*
  • Obesity*

Once one is diagnosed and on a gluten-free diet, most symptoms clear up. Until the next OOPS. In my house, gluten exposure means a lot of things depending on which of us it is, including insomnia, paranoia, irrational anger, diarrhea, constipation, extreme muscle pain, swelling, abdominal distress, bloating, exhaustion.

Celiac is NOT:
Picky eating. I'd give my left foot for a soft, delicious doughnut. Or to be able to eat at your house. Or a restaurant. But I'd rather not risk cancer. Or 2 weeks of hell. 1 crumb. ONE. That's enough to make a person with celiac sick. The current labelling laws allow anything under 20 parts per million to be called gluten free, as long as it's not deliberately added. So cross-contamination levels are permitted. I still get sick. From less than 20ppm. In fact, Rice Dream, which claims to have removed all the gluten, and have less than 20ppm made me sick for years until I discovered their barley processing. Assholes.

Imaginary The next person to tell me this is all in my head gets to listen to that Friday song on a loop for a month. Except on Fridays, which will be It's a Small World day. Seriously, it's physiological and can be tested with blood work or endoscopy.

Trendy or A fad. I know the gluten-free diet is a fad right now. That's not really helping me. Because Random Celebrity claims to be gluten-free one day and is seen eating a bagel the next day, people like me and my family are often perceived to be following the trend, and our health concerns are not taken seriously. On the other hand, there are more gluten-free products right now.

If you know a Celiac who cheats, remind them that no symptoms doesn't mean no damage. Is that baguette worth cancer? And please, please, don't judge the ones who are super careful as neurotic. They're doing their best to keep themselves safe and comfortable. Think of it as rat poison. If someone put rat poison icing on your cake, would you scrape the rat poison off and eat it? What if there was only a very little bit of rat poison? Surely you'd eat that, right? A little can't hurt, right? Wrong.

So now you're aware. My job here is done.