National Celiac Disease Awareness Day

National Celiac Disease Awareness Day

Though it may not be a widely celebrated holiday, National Celiac Disease Awareness Day (September 13th) is an important day of recognition for those with the disease.

Celiac Disease affects an estimated 3 million people, possibly even more, the majority of whom are undiagnosed. By increasing awareness of this surprisingly common disease, it helps researchers identify undiagnosed cases and doctors make much-needed diagnoses.

Observance of this day of awareness helps spread the word about celiac disease, answering questions that may help others come to a better understanding of their overall health. Better yet, it may lead to diagnosis and relief for some of those who have been suffering.

Here’s what you need to know about the history of National Celiac Disease Awareness Day along with some simple tips for observing this day of awareness.

A Quick History Lesson

Celiac disease is a surprisingly common condition, but many who suffer symptoms for years are surprised by their diagnosis. The disease was first diagnosed by the Greek physician Aretaeus in AD 100 as an abdominal infection but it wasn’t linked to gluten until scientists in Birmingham, England made a breakthrough discovery in 1952.

Since the 1950s, celiac disease research has grown by leaps and bounds but there is still more to be discovered. On August 3rd, 2010, a Senate resolution gave unanimous approval for September 13th to be dubbed National Celiac Disease Awareness Day. With their vote, the Senate recognized that “all people of the United States should become more informed and aware of celiac disease.”

The date September 13th was chosen in commemoration of Dr. Samuel Gee, a leader in celiac disease research, who was born September 13th, 1839. Gee wrote a paper in 1888 titled On the Coeliac Affection which described the condition as a type of chronic indigestion, the causes of which were obscure. Though the details of the disease were still unclear at the time, Gee concluded, “But if the patient be cured at all, it must be by means of diet.”

The discovering linking celiac disease to gluten that came in the 1950s changed the course of celiac disease research, though a formal cure has yet to be discovered.

Tips for Observing National Celiac Disease Awareness Day

Celiac disease is much more common than many people realize, affecting roughly 1% of average Americans or at least 3 million people. Shockingly, as many as 97% of celiac disease sufferers are undiagnosed. National Celiac Disease Awareness Day is the perfect opportunity to improve your own understanding of gluten and how it affects your body or, if you’ve already switched to the gluten free diet, share your knowledge and experience with someone else.

Here are some simple tips for observing this national day of awareness:

  • Do some research to learn more about celiac disease. Celiac disease has been linked with over 100 different symptoms and can present in complex ways. Learning more about the symptoms may help you or someone you know reach diagnosis.
  • Learn more about hidden sources of gluten in food. Gluten is a protein found in wheat, barley, and rye. There are certain ingredients that aren’t always obvious, however, like soy sauce, bouillon, imitation crab meat, blue cheese, etc.
  • Start reading food labels at the grocery store. Gluten free items aren’t always labeled gluten free, just as foods containing gluten aren’t always labeled as such. Learning to interpret the information on a food label is important to avoid accidental gluten ingestion.
  • Incorporate one gluten free meal into your daily diet. If you’re not ready to take the leap into a gluten free diet, try incorporating one gluten free meal into your daily routine to try it out.
  • Do a two-week trial of the gluten free diet. The best way to determine whether digestive symptoms are related to gluten (other than an antibody test for Celiac disease) is to remove it from your diet for a few weeks to see if your symptoms resolve.
  • Experiment with gluten free versions of your favorite recipes. Whether you’re already following the gluten free diet or not, now is the perfect time to expand your recipe repertoire.

If you’ve been struggling with diarrhea, bloating, fatigue, and abdominal pain and have been wondering whether it might be related to gluten, it’s finally time to do something about it. Let National Celiac Disease Awareness Day be the day you take back control of your body and take steps to feel better. Talk to a healthcare professional about your options.

You don’t necessarily need to make a long-term commitment up front but being conscious of your gluten consumption and gradually reducing your intake may help you determine whether gluten really is the cause your symptoms. At the very least, you’ll have a little more information you can bring to your doctor to help determine an accurate diagnosis and to come up with a treatment plan.

To learn more about National Celiac Disease Awareness Day and ongoing research, visit the Celiac Disease Foundation or Beyond Celiac.