By Eric Bennion
Publisher, Diary Dad
Gluten-free is a hot topic right now. If you have been even moderately connected to any of the Internet content firehouses like Facebook and Twitter, you have likely seen a headline announcing some new gluten-free food option or diet recommendation – especially during the past few weeks.
You might not have known that May is Celiac Disease Awareness Month. Some of you may even be wondering “What the does celiac mean?”
A celiac is someone who has celiac disease. In our little family of four, we just happen to have a celiac. That means as a family, we do things a little different. Specifically, we eat gluten-free. Gluten-free foods are foods that have no wheat, rye or barley in them and have not come into contact with those grains during the manufacturing or preparation processes. To be labeled gluten-free, the gluten content of a food must be less than 20 ppm.
As a father of a celiac, I am so glad that so many brands and restaurants are starting to offer gluten-free products and menus, because it means more options for my kid. However, there is so much more to know about celiac disease than just the fact that those that have it can’t eat gluten.
Often confused with an allergy or described as gluten intolerance, it is in fact very different. Celiac disease is just that, an auto-immune disease. That means that when someone with celiac disease eats gluten, it triggers a response by the immune system causing it to attack their small intestine, preventing them from extracting nutrients from the food they eat. It is a genetic disease, which means it runs in families and one person’s diagnosis is a good reason for their relatives to consider being tested.
Unfortunately, sometimes people don’t recognize their own signs and symptoms and will say that they feel fine. However, once they are diagnosed and start to manage their diet they notice a marked improvement in their well-being. It affects everyone differently so open, non-judgmental conversations are great ways to understand how and when someone is affected by it.
Recently, the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness released the following video to encourage people with celiac disease and their families to have serious conversations about the disease and the importance of getting tested for it:
Since it is Celiac Disease Awareness Month, I wanted to echo the sentiment. If someone in your family has celiac disease, take the time to visit your doctor and have them test you for it. It is a simple blood test and can be ordered by most doctors. It is covered by most insurance plans. We were fortunate that we had a pediatrician order this test for my boy. Now we know, and we have been able to watch him grow and be healthy for the past 8 years. We have learned so many great ways to live gluten-free in a way that allows him to enjoy a full, healthy life, and it all started with a little test.
If you have a family member who has celiac disease, it is well worth your while to get tested. If you want more information on the disease and what you should know about getting the test, click here for a brochure that can answer some of your questions and empower you to have a conversation with your doctor.
You can always visit the NFCA’s website for more information. If you still have questions, I’ll gladly have a conversation with you about celiac disease … seriously.