Celiac disease awareness has taken off in recent years thanks to a “gluten free” trend that has been firing up for some time. For those unlucky enough to suffer from celiac disease (who eat gluten free because they have to, not because they want to give it a try) there are quite a few harsh realities they face.
Celiac disease is an autoimmune disease, which means that your body attacks itself for no good reason — in the case of celiac disease, when you ingest gluten, it causes your body to destroy the villi that line your stomach and small intestine. The villi are important because they allow you to absorb important nutrients, and if they’re damaged, it results in all sorts of terrible things. Stomach pain is the most common symptom, but it doesn’t end there — it can cause joint and muscle pain, mouth sores, weight loss, bloating, menstrual issues and other terrible things. It can also totally mess up your bathroom habits, which is no fun at all.
It can take awhile to get diagnosed
This is less of a problem now than it was even a handful of years ago, but due to symptoms that mimic many other diseases and conditions, it can take awhile for a celiac screening panel to get ordered.
You have to have a biopsy
Blood screening tests can indicate whether you likely have celiac disease or not, but the only 100% certain way to diagnose you is to put you under light anesthesia, put a scope down your throat and take several biopsies of your stomach and small intestine. Fortunately it sounds scarier than it really is, and most people find it to not be a huge deal.
Eating out is a huge risk
Many restaurants have jumped on the gluten-free bandwagon, but it’s super hard to trust that they can make your food without accidentally cross contaminating it. Seriously, just a wee smidgen of a crumb can send you into a gluten-induced hell. Some celiacs decide it’s too big a risk to take, or stick to eateries that are 100% gluten free.
Sometimes people are clueless
Those who don’t have to eat a special diet for health reasons sometimes have a hard time understanding the seriousness of the disease. This can be compounded by those who have gone gluten free for other reasons (like they hope it will help them lose weight) — these folks don’t have to be as strict as you do, so someone might not think it’s a big deal to serve you a salad, minus the croutons they just picked off it. Spoiler alert — it’s a big, messy, painful deal.
Fortunately, the news is not all terrible! Once you get diagnosed and get a handle on the ins and outs of eating gluten free, it’s a huge relief to be able to totally control a disease by diet alone. Once you remove gluten from your diet, your gut will heal and you will start feeling human again.