Hey there gluten-free fam! So, May is Celiac Awareness Month and this is something very close to us because we know how difficult it can be to manage celiac disease symptoms, ugh! You are not alone if you struggle with this. About 1% of Canadians are diagnosed with celiac disease, and sadly its prevalence increases each year. Celiac is considered a serious autoimmune disorder, triggered by eating foods containing gluten. Hello, wonderful gluten-free food options! 🙏
Celiac disease can cause long-lasting digestive problems and can keep your body from properly absorbing nutrients – which can cause troublesome vitamin and mineral deficiencies. So, obviously, we love the power of the super seeds in our cereal blends to help get the critical vitamins and minerals we need and want without involving any gluten.
Perhaps you just battle with some pesky gluten intolerance, we’re here for you too! Here are the most common symptoms of celiac disease, how to best manage it, and minimize long-term damage to your body.
Celiac disease is a lifelong disorder that affects the immune and digestive system, sigh. It is an autoimmune disease that affects the small intestine. Unfortunately, in celiac disease, the body triggers an inappropriate immune response to gluten, causing a lot of unsolicited damage to the small intestine. If left untreated, over time celiac disease can destroy the normal structure of the intestines, which affects how well nutrients are absorbed.
It’s also a genetic disorder, so it’s caused by having an abnormal gene that was passed on by someone in your family. It is different from gluten sensitivity or wheat intolerance, though these disorders can produce similar symptoms like abdominal pain and tiredness. Unlike celiac disease, these conditions are not damaging to the intestines, and usually don’t come with long lasting complications.
Celiac disease can be difficult to diagnose because it affects people differently, and you may experience many different symptoms that come and go from time to time. Some people will experience many symptoms, while others have no symptoms at all. However, the same damage is done when people with celiac disease are exposed to gluten, regardless of how many symptoms they may (or may not) experience...
There are more than 200 known celiac disease symptoms which can affect the digestive system or other parts of the body. Most people diagnosed with celiac disease experience one or more symptoms. Generally speaking, these symptoms are usually worsened by eating or drinking gluten (bye, beer!)
The most common symptoms of celiac disease are digestive problems. Children are more likely to experience these than adults. Digestive symptoms of celiac disease can include:
On the flip side, some people with celiac disease experience seemingly mysterious symptoms that cause problems in other parts of the body. These are often attributed to their heightened immune response or are instigated by nutritional deficiencies. These symptoms may include:
Left untreated, celiac disease can progress into a much worse disease – which is why proper diagnosis and management of the disease is so important! Some long-term complications of untreated celiac disease can include:
Reproductive/hormonal issues like infertility or miscarriages
When and if diagnosis with celiac disease, it is crucial to follow a gluten-free diet. Gluten is typically found in wheat, barley, rye and triticale. Thankfully, though, there are so many awesome gluten-free options now! Removing foods and drinks that contain gluten is the best way to relieve symptoms, heal damage to the small intestine and prevent long-term complications.
Many foods are naturally gluten-free, too:
Some grains, starches, and flours can also be a part of a gluten-free diet:
Symptoms usually improve within days of avoiding gluten (sigh of relief!), but healing can take months in children and years in adults. Regardless of how long your symptoms or healing process lasts, it’s super important that people with celiac disease continue to stick to a gluten-free diet. Eating even a tiny amount of bread, pasta, cereal, cake or any other gluten-containing food can trigger damage to the intestines and reignite the whole cycle.
Something to note when following a gluten-free diet is nutrient intake – you can’t let those vitamins and nutrients slip through the cracks! With celiac disease, you might be more likely to have nutrient deficiencies. A gluten-free diet can also change your nutrient intake and make you even more susceptible to deficiency, how rude. So, it can be important to work closely with a healthcare professional, like a registered dietician, to come up with a gluten-free diet that is nutritionally complete and designed for you.
Sometimes these symptoms can feel overwhelming and discouraging. Know that you are not alone and there are some pretty awesome support groups. The Canadian Celiac Association is an amazing resource for Canadians with celiac disease or any gluten intolerance. They have great educational resources and a lot of helpful gluten-free recipes and food suggestions. Another great benefit is that they can connect you to local groups in your area, events, and in-person support group meetings. Being connected to other people who can truly understand what you’re going through is one of the best ways to cope with your diagnosis.
Celiac disease is a serious autoimmune disease where exposure to gluten causes damage to the small intestine, but there are ways to manage this. Following a gluten-free diet is a lifelong necessity for people with celiac disease. Even eating something as seemingly harmless as a few breadcrumbs can trigger damage to the intestines. So, avoiding gluten and cross contamination is crucial to reducing symptoms and complications of the disease. And while this isn’t always easy to do, there are solutions and great food options to help, and working with a dietician and finding support is also a great place to start.
If you’re looking for some new gluten-free products to stock in your pantry try Holy Crap Cereals! At Holy Crap, we use only the finest organic, gluten-free, and allergen-free ingredients. Try our range of cereals that are versatile enough to be eaten with every meal and can add brightness and a burst of superfoods to your gluten free diet!
Canadian Celiac Association. (2021). Who we are.https://www.celiac.ca/about-the-cca/who-we-are/
Caio, G., Volta, U., Sapone, A., Leffler, D. A., De Giorgio, R., Catassi, C., & Fasano, A. (2019). Celiac disease: a comprehensive current review. BMC medicine, 17(1), 142.https://doi.org/10.1186/s12916-019-1380-z
National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. (2021). Celiac Disease.https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/digestive-diseases/celiac-disease
Posner EB, Haseeb M. (2020). Celiac Disease. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing. Available from:https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK441900/