There is a running joke in my family that I have Celiac Disease because my birthday falls during Celiac Disease Awareness Month. To top it off, this year my birthday happens to be the first day of Food Allergy Awareness Week in the U.S. (May 11-17)! It would be quite nice if I could truly explain my medical problems with a neat story, but Celiac Disease and allergies are a little bit messier.
In honor of Celiac Disease Awareness Month, I want to briefly explain Celiac Disease to my readers who are unfamiliar with the condition, AND outline some awesome events in the GF community this upcoming month. (If you’re a celiac feel free to skip the first section).
What is Celiac Disease?
Celiac Disease is an autoimmune disease (not an allergy as many initially believed). For those with Celiac Disease, when we consume gluten (a protein found in certain grains such as wheat, barley, and rye), the villi in our small intestine flatten. We are then unable to digest and absorb the essential nutrients from our food. This leads to a host of problems from anemia and diarrhea to infertility and acid reflux. While autoimmune diseases are considered to be irreversible conditions, we are fortunate that there is a treatment plan for those with Celiac Disease – the gluten free diet.
The gluten free diet has done wonders for me; however, some celiacs develop Refractory Celiac Disease, where symptoms continue to worsen despite the GF diet. These patients face severe malabsorption and the condition can be life threatening because many patients develop lymphoma. While the gluten free diet is often a sufficient treatment (albeit cumbersome), research is still needed to cure Celiac Disease.
For my quick Celiac pet peeve: It’s important to know that Celiac Disease can only be diagnosed while you’re eating gluten. Assuming that you do (or do not) have Celiac Disease can lead to a multitude of problems. Therefore, it’s critical that you consult a physician before beginning a gluten free diet! (You’ll probably want to see a nutritionist at least once as well, but remember I’m not a medical professional. It’s just my personal opinion).
To learn more about Celiac Disease, check out my favorite online sources: the Celiac Disease Foundation, UChicago Celiac Center, and Celiac Now/BIDMC Celiac Center. Or my favorite book that covers research on the whole spectrum of gluten-related disorders, Gluten Freedom by Alessio Fasano, MD. (The proceeds of his book go toward research!)
Virtual Celiac Awareness Events
I cannot begin to express how grateful I am for online GF/Celiac community. They’ve put together some FANTASTIC EVENTS for Celiac Awareness Month. And, you don’t even need to get off your couch to check them out!
- Celiac and the Beast’s Celiac Disease Awareness Month Celebration: I’ve been waiting since April for this event. Celiac and the Beast (aka: Erika Dermer) has put together a GF giveaway celebration for EVERY DAY in May. You can find the giveaways on her website, or use the Facebook event to remind you! Day 1 featured Red Apple Lip Balm and today features Natural Decadence Gluten Free Bakery’s Smore’s Kit, which is dairy and egg free as well. 🙂
- Gluten Dude’s 30 Days of Helping 30 Celiacs: Gluten Dude (known for his infamous rants) is ready to help you out this month (and the rest of the year too). He’s writing thirty consecutive weekday posts to answer GF questions. While he is receiving a ton of mail, you should contact him too! Send him a question or story, and it could be featured! Yesterday’s post about compassion made me smile to say the least.
- #PositiveCeliac Campaign: Put together by two AMAZING celiac advocates, Taylor Miller (@GlutenAway) and Erin Smith (@gfreefun), this Twitter campaign invites us to tweet about how Celiac Disease affects us in a positive way. This uplifting campaign can be found by searching #PositiveCeliac or @PositiveCeliac. I’m aiming for one tweet a day throughout the month of May. (It’s kind of like the #100HappyDays Challenge for Celiacs). Are you up for the challenge?!
Celiac Awareness Events in Your Town
Last year, my favorite part about Celiac Awareness month was running to the grocery store while there were sales on gluten free items (which we all know is rare). While I haven’t seen many deals yet this year, be sure to stock up when you see them in your area!
There are also plenty of events going on across the U.S. and the world. This calendar is a list of the ones I found while waiting at the DMV on Tuesday. Be sure to see if there’s an event in your area that interests you, and feel free to contact me if you want your event added to the calendar.
* I cannot vouch for any of these events specifically. However, there is a link to more information on each one!
In conclusion, Happy Celiac Disease Awareness Month! And, be on the lookout for more celiac facts in my recipes this month!
P.S: I suspect that a chocolate chip banana bread recipe is coming soon 🙂