Celiac Awareness Day!

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When you look at this picture, do you see someone who is fighting a chronic illness and an autoimmune disease (multiple autoimmune diseases)? I don’t but I am.
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Today is National Celiac Awareness Day. Celiac Disease is an autoimmune disorder where when gluten is ingested, it leads to damage in the small intestine. Your body thinks that there is a foreign invader in your intestine, so the villi gets attacked and damaged. Your body in response eventually struggles to absorb nutrients. Not only does it affect your intestines, Celiac Disease can encourage other autoimmune diseases to appear and other damaging problems. Anything from various cancers to thyroid problems to neurological manifestations.

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Researchers have found that Celiac Disease is hereditary and it affects 1 in 100 people worldwide. 2 1/2 million people live everyday with undiagnosed Celiac Disease. Without the proper tools, people who go too long without a diagnosis are putting themselves in extreme danger.

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When I was finally diagnosed (it used to take years to get a diagnosis) with Celiac Disease seven years ago, I didn’t take it seriously. I thought I just didn’t have to eat wheat. I would participate in happy hour after work and drink beer or eat gluten containing food because it was a holiday. I was naive and uneducated. I would often feel sick afterwards and sometimes that would last for days. My first major health episode came when I nearly died from an infected gallbladder. A few years after that, my appendix needed to come out. While the doctors were in there, they noticed that I had scar tissue wrapped around my stomach and my intestines. The scar tissue was removed but not without other complications. After that surgery, I began to do some research. I would have weird symptoms that never made sense like my hair and eyelashes would fall out, my joints hurt, I had brain fog, my stomach always felt bad, I always had a headache, and I overall felt like shit. I soon realized my “random symptoms” were really a part of having Celiac Disease. I found a book, Jennifer’s Way, by Jennifer Esposito that chronicled her life with her diagnosis with Celiac. After reading it, it changed my outlook on life. I didn’t know that ingesting gluten was actually killing me. I was doing irreversible damage to my body.

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I had the chance last year to meet Jennifer and thanked her for saving my life. I did a 360 in my life and cut gluten completely out. I am not going to lie and say it has been all peachy since then. I have suffered from multiple hospitalizations, new autoimmune disease diagnosis, and other health complications. But I am far better off health wise than I was seven years ago. And even though I sometimes struggle to get out of bed because I had a flare up, I know that I am trying my best to feed my body the medicine it needs through food. That’s the thing with an “invisible illness”. The person looks fine on the outside but is dealing with many debilitating things on the inside.

So if you take away anything from this, know that we are all fighting a battle that people don’t know about. Someone might “look fine” on the outside but is sick on the inside. So be kind to each other. Listen when someone says that they feel a certain way. You never know what battle they might be facing.

To find out more information on Celiac Disease, visit https://celiac.org.

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