What is celiac disease? This is the same question I asked myself almost a year ago now. At the time I was diagnosed with it, the doctor said it was hereditary; my grandmother had it as well, on my father’s side. Celiac disease is a digestive condition triggered by consumption of the protein gluten, which is primarily found in bread, pasta, cookies, pizza crust and many other foods containing wheat, barley or rye. People with celiac disease who eat foods containing gluten experience an immune reaction in their small intestines, causing damage to the inner surface of the small intestine and an inability to absorb certain nutrients. Celiac disease can cause abdominal pain and diarrhea. Eventually, the decreased absorption of nutrients (malabsorption) that occurs with celiac disease can cause vitamin deficiencies that deprive your brain, peripheral nervous system, bones, liver and other organs of vital nourishment. No treatment can cure celiac disease. However, you can effectively manage celiac disease by changing your diet.
I didn’t realize that my grandmother had the disease as well till I found out I had the disease. She almost died from having celiac. Celiac disease wasn’t a typical everyday known disease at all 10 years ago, and not many people were as aware of celiac as they are now. They still aren’t though, aware, so that is why celiac disease is part of my platform to raise more awareness so people don’t have to go for years not knowing that they have the disease. My grandmother went for years without knowing, my father and so have I have gone for years. This is why more people need to know, understand, and realize that so many people in our world, country and communities know next to nothing about it. I want to change that.
There are no typical signs and symptoms of celiac disease. Many people do get abdominal pain, and bloating. Some of the less obvious signs that may occur would be:
- Irritability or depression
- Upset stomach
- Joint pain
- Muscle cramps
- Skin rash
- Mouth sores
- Dental and bone disorders (osteoporosis)
Some indications of malabsorption of nutrients that may resultfrom celiac disease include:
- Weight loss
- Abdominal cramps, gas and bloating
- General weakness and fatigue
- Foul-smelling or grayish stools that may be fatty or oily
- Stunted growth (in children)
I have gone through many of these symptoms, muscle cramps, joint pain, upset stomach, general weakness and fatigue, the hardest one yet would have to be the depression. I have a great support system of friends and family, which helped me through depression, so I was never alone in it. But it was hard when people didn’t know what was going on in my life, they didn’t understand why I missed so much school. Why I was so quiet half the time, and shy, middle school would have to be the hardest time of my life. Through it all the doctors put me on all sorts of different dosses, and types of anti-depressants, none of them working. I hated the medication, every time I took it, it always reminded me there was something wrong with me that nothing is ever going to change. After a couple years of the medication, I went off of it all, it honestly helped to go off of the meds. A year later, still having depression difficulties, I was diagnosed with celiac disease, probably one of the more happy days of my life at the time. Soon I changed my diet to being gluten free, for the first couple months it was difficult especially when I went to a friend’s house and there wasn’t much to eat. That was least of my worries, I was just so amazingly excited to be happy and pain free!
So if ever in your life your down, sad, out of breathe, look forward to the future. That’s the best thing you can do for yourself. Sometimes things have to get worse before they get better, just remember that.
Most of the information on celiac disease was provided by mayoclinic.com