Throughout the month of May many individuals are celebrating National Celiac Awareness Month. All across the country gluten free organizations are honouring community members making a difference in the lives of those suffering from celiac disease and gluten sensitivity. This month is used to educate the community about the symptoms of celiac disase and raise awareness and understanding.
You may be familiar with the term gluten free but many are still confused about the differences between celiac disease and gluten sensitivity. It is estimated that 1 in 133 Canadians are affected by this disease (Statistic from Canadian Celiac Association). Celiac disease is a medical condition where the surface of the small intestines is damaged by gluten. This results in the body’s inability to absorb the nutrients that it needs. With a wide range of symptoms (diarrhea, weight loss, fatigue, etc.) diagnosing celiac disease can be hard.
Gluten sensitivity is when an individual’s body reacts to gluten in food items but is not medically diagnosed with celiac disease (via blood work and/or a biopsy). These individuals have similar physical symptoms as an individual with celiac disease and the symptoms improve on a gluten free diet.
I have been on a gluten free diet for the past four years. It is definitely not an easy lifestyle change! Eating out becomes quite a challenge with cross contamination and something as simple as buying vitamins can be hard! You are constantly checking labels, asking questions and worrying about potential side affects.
Over the past two years I have noticed that many of my favourite companies have been introducing a wide variety of gluten free products! On top of this labelling of products has greatly improved – gluten free items are now easy to identify. People are becoming much more aware of the condition and understanding of the lifestyle changes that are required in order to minimize symptoms. The media exposure from expos, events, National Celiac Awareness Month and customers has helped in many ways to encourage these changes. I know I am personally so encouraged by all the steps companies are taking to help out those who suffer from celiac and gluten sensitivity.
Are you or do you know someone who has celiac disease or gluten sensitivity? What is the number one hardship that they have come across with this condition?