Celiac Awareness Month 2011

It seems nowadays that for every month of the year there are at least a dozen diseases or causes to be ‘aware’ of.  May is no exception, and it happens to be Celiac Awareness month.  So, what does it mean to be ‘aware’ of Celiac.   To us gluten free yodas it means the following:

Simply knowing that Celiac exists,

Being sensitive to those who have Celiac or maintain a gluten free diet,

Understanding that gluten free is not a fad and we aren’t doing it to be ‘cool’

Having Celiac disease isn’t a wish that someone makes while they are blowing out their birthday candles.  It’s not something that someone prays for like a kid wishing for a trip to Disney World.  However, it is a welcome diagnosis to those who have suffered in pain and extreme discomfort for many, many years.  It’s not a diagnosis one hopes for, but it is an explanation.  It’s a relief when it is determined.  I know this may seem like a stretch, but it’s about one’s own awareness of Celiac that brings to light a plan of attack, an escape.  Being aware opens up one’s options for moving forward, feeling better, and living.

Being aware of Celiac is being aware of gluten.  Gluten is an elastic protein that is found in many grains, such as wheat, rye, or barley.  It’s what we often see in bread dough making is stretch and stay together even as you continue to kneed it.  In Celiac, it is the gliadin portion of the gluten that causes an immune response resulting in damaged intestines, hence the malabsorption of nutrients the body needs to thrive.

When your body decides not to absorb nutrients, not to nourish itself, it can be difficult to see a way out.  The wonderful thing about the way out is that it is more often one of the most natural forms of treatment – diet.  A strict gluten free diet allows one’s body to rejuvenate, to grow and rebuild itself to become what it knows best to do – to thrive, absorb nutrients, and fuel the rest of the body.  Although a gluten free diet may be supplemented with additional vitamins and minerals, it’s a gluten free diet that is at the core of treatment.

Those of us with Celiac or gluten intolerance are already ‘aware’, so a month of Celiac awareness isn’t really about ‘us’ – it’s really about educating others on the disease and the diet.  So, how can we educate the public and others in our lives … well, here are some places to start:

  1. Celiac Disease Foundation - a wealth of information about the disease, treating it and further education
  2. Celiac.com - pretty much the oldest site out there dedicated to gluten free and celiac – everything from Q&A, rescipes, the shopping mall, to advice and forums
  3. Recognizing Celiac Disease - a very down to earth book explaining the disease, symptoms and how to treat them

In addition to the above, a new forum has been created as an expansion of GlutenFreeWorks.com called GlutenFreeNetWorks – join in the conversation here and you’ll learn a lot about what’s going on in the world of Celiac and gluten free.  We’ll see you there!

So, if you have Celiac, or gluten intolerance, take this month to bring more awareness of the disease to the world – start locally with a friend, or join in the online conversation.  You may just find that the person sitting next to you on the train is gluten free too, and looking for a good place to eat!

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