The Trouble with Gluten: Celiac Disease Awareness Month

Posted on May 21, 2019 by kerri
It may seem now that being gluten free is just a fad. But for people with celiac disease, avoiding gluten is the only way to prevent long-term autoimmune damage to the small intestine. This damage caused to the lining of the small intestine can cause diarrhea, fatigue, weight loss, bloating and anemia, and can cause difficulty in absorbing nutrients in food, called malabsorption [1]. Consuming gluten if you have celiac disease can also cause a skin disease in some cases called dermatitis herpetiformis, which is an itchy, blistering rash. [1] There are many other symptoms associated with celiac disease, including irritability, vomiting, poor appetite or fullness, and nervous system problems—just to name a few. [1]
For people with Celiac disease, the damage may happen slowly, but it does happen and can cause serious problems over time—in children, it can even cause growth and development problems. [1]. This is why it is important to avoid gluten in even small amounts. Even though Celiac Disease is not a food allergy, it is just as important to avoid gluten when you have celiac disease to prevent further damage to your intestine.
Who gets Celiac Disease?
You are more likely to get celiac disease if you have a family member who has celiac disease or dermatitis herpetiformis; if you have Type 1 diabetes or another autoimmune disease like thyroid disease or rheumatoid arthritis; if you have Down syndrome or Turner syndrome; if you have Addison’s Disease; or if you have microscopic colitis. [1]
What happens if a person with Celiac disease does not avoid gluten?
While not avoiding gluten if you have Celiac disease can be painful and cause unpleasant symptoms, it can also affect your long-term health. MayoClinic.org states “People with celiac disease who do not maintain a gluten-free diet have a greater risk of developing several forms of cancer, including intestinal lymphoma and small bowel cancer.” [1] They may also develop neurological problems such as seizures or neurological issues like neuropathy (which at first may cause tingling in the hands or feet, or lack of sensation as the nerves that travel to the limbs are affected). Children may have failure to thrive, experience delayed onset of puberty, experience weight loss, and have a greater risk of dental problems, anemia, arthritis and joint problems, and seizures (epilepsy). [1]
What if a gluten free diet does not help?
Most of the time, a person with celiac disease will feel better on a gluten free diet. If a person with Celiac disease does not respond to a truly gluten free diet, they may have “nonresponsive celiac disease” or “refractory celiac disease” [1]. In some  cases, celiac disease is non-responsive because gluten is not being avoided and a dietitian may be able to help. In other cases, other problems may be responsible for the lack of improvement. [1] In refractory celiac disease, the damage to the small intestine persists and causes malabsorption, despite following a gluten free diet strictly. There may be other treatments such as steroid medications to decrease inflammation to use in these situations. [1]
Most people can maintain good control of celiac disease if they are diligent about not consuming gluten—by reading ingredients, knowing where gluten may “hide” in food products, and asking restaurant staff to confirm ingredients. As more people choose to avoid gluten for lifestyle reasons, it can be difficult for those with true medical needs, such as Celiac disease or food allergies to rye, wheat and barley, to get accurate answers about ingredients in food—it is important to be persistent about seeing a list of ingredients wherever possible.
Do I need medical ID jewelry for celiac disease?
While it is hard to se a reason people with Celiac Disease might need medical ID jewelry since they are making their own food choices, medical ID jewelry for Celiac Disease may be important in certain situations. For example, for children with Celiac Disease, medical ID jewelry can help provide a visual reminder to caregivers that gluten needs to be avoided for medical reasons. In other circumstances, such as emergencies, it can ensure that no medications that contain gluten are given if a person cannot speak for themselves; in such situations as well, if a person is unable to eat for a prolonged period of time and a feeding tube is needed, a medical ID bracelet can ensure Celiac Disease is documented to prevent damage. These situations may feel like a long shot, but wearing a medical ID bracelet for celiac disease can be very worthwhile to protect your health! We have both pre-engraved Celiac medical bracelets and custom options for medical ID jewelry for celiac disease on our site.

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