I thought I was dying. I had a full-term still birth and multiple miscarriages. My body was breaking down. I was plagued by fatigue, migraines and uncontrollable diarrhea that kept me awake at night. Through eight years of struggling, I saw nearly two dozen doctors. Finally, I got my answer. Celiac disease. My story may sound extreme, but it is all too common.
Getting the facts
Celiac disease is a serious genetic autoimmune disease that’s triggered by eating gluten, a protein found in wheat, barley and rye. An autoimmune disease is a condition where the body launches an attack on healthy tissue, leaving it damaged and triggering a list of life-interrupting symptoms. For celiac disease, we know that gluten prompts this reaction in the body and that removing it can eliminate or significantly minimize symptoms and halt damage to the body.
Roughly one in 133 Americans is living with celiac disease, and 83 percent of those people remain undiagnosed or misdiagnosed. It is estimated that 6 percent of Americans have non-celiac gluten sensitivity, a condition that causes similar symptoms to those of untreated celiac disease, but without the same intestinal damage.
The healing process
The day I was diagnosed with celiac disease was the best day of my life. It’s the day I got my life back.
I adopted a 100-percent gluten-free diet, restored my health and started my quest to help others not have to suffer as I did. Managing the gluten-free diet still comes with its fair share of challenges, but it is the only solution people with celiac disease have for now.
There are no definitive tests for gluten sensitivity, which may explain why so many Americans are reporting that they are reducing or eliminating gluten from their diets to see if they, too, will feel better from going gluten-free. Because celiac disease can be so devastating to long-term health, I encourage people to get tested for celiac disease before adopting a gluten-free diet.
Though research is starting to show that the gluten-free diet may not be enough to completely heal from celiac disease, it’s still our best and only treatment for now. I am pleased to support this campaign to help raise awareness about celiac disease and gluten sensitivity and help the community to live better, and longer.
Alice Bast, President and CEO, Beyond Celiac, [email protected]