By: Sarah Johnson, MS, RD
May kicks off Celiac Disease Awareness month. While it is probably not something most people have circled on their calendar, it is something we all should pay attention to as it is far more prevalent than people think. Today, one out of every 100 people across the globe have Celiac Disease, and that number is rising by 7.5% each year.1 However, 80-90% of those people living with celiac disease are unaware that they even have it. 1,2
That means approximately 2.5 million Americans right now are living with celiac and they do not even know it, leaving them susceptible to potentially serious long term health issues.
What is Celiac Disease, and why is diagnosis crucial?
Celiac Disease, while thought of by many as simply a digestive issue, is actually an autoimmune disease. It occurs in people who are genetically predisposed, and whose bodies cannot tolerate the consumption of gluten.
Gluten is a protein that is found in wheat, barley, rye, spelt, and in oats that have been contaminated.
When people with celiac disease eat gluten, it causes damage to the villi in their gut. Villi are the small fingerlike projections in the gut that help us absorb nutrients from food. The destruction of the villi leads to malnourishment, and with 70% of your immune system in your gut, when your gut is not healthy, neither is the rest of your body.3 This attack on the gut is why, if left untreated, celiac disease can lead to the development of other autoimmune diseases such as Type 1 Diabetes and multiple sclerosis, as well as other non-autoimmune issues such as infertility, small bowel cancer, and thyroid cancer.4
How do I know if I have Celiac?
When talking about the symptoms of celiac disease, it is important to note that there is no one size fits all. Celiac disease affects everyone differently, and it is possible to have celiac without any noticeable symptoms at all. There are some symptoms however that are more commonly reported:
Who Should be tested?
Right now, it is recommended that individuals who can answer “Yes” to at least one of the following three questions should be tested.
- Do you have a first-degree relative (parent, child, sibling) with celiac disease? Those who do have a 1 in 10 risk of developing celiac disease.1
- Are you over the age of 3 and experiencing any of the symptoms listed above on a regular basis?
- Do you have an autoimmune disorder, or do autoimmune disorders run in your family? Particularly Type 1 diabetes, Thyroid issues, or Multiple Sclerosis.5
If you answered yes to any of the questions, talk to your primary care doctor or a dietitian about getting tested. While celiac disease cannot be cured, fortunately it can be easily managed with diet. For help managing your Celiac disease or any nutrition questions, contact Live Your Life today!
Sarah Johnson MS, RD is a Registered Dietitian with a strong passion for helping people discover the healing power of food.
Today’s world offers more nutrition information at our fingertips than ever before. However, when it comes to nutrition, there is no one size fits all solution leading many to feel exhausted by years of “trial & error”. Sarah’s mission is to help people weed through the noise and to educate and empower them on simple ways food can help them regain their energy for life. She believes your body was designed to work well; you simply need the tools to get it back on track.
Sarah graduated from the College of St. Benedict with a B.A. in Dietetics and went on to receive an M.S. in Human Nutritional Science from the University of Wisconsin Stout where she focused on using nutrition to help those living with multiple sclerosis and other inflammatory diseases.
Sarah lives in Mahtomedi with her husband and 3 children and loves the access to nature Minnesota living provides all year round.
 “Incidence of Celiac Disease Steadily Increasing.” Celiac Disease Foundation. 20 February 2020, https://celiac.org/about-the-foundation/featured-news/2020/02/incidence-of-celiac-disease-steadily-increasing/
2 Rubio-Tapia A, Ludvigsson JF, Brantner, et al. The prevalence of celiac disease in the United States. Am J Gastroenterol. 2012 Oct;107(10):1538-44; quiz 1537, 1545. Epub 2012 Jul 31.
3 “Celiac Disease Facts and Figures.” The University of Chicago Medicine. 1 April, 2019 https://www.cureceliacdisease.org/wp-content/uploads/341_CDCFactSheets8_FactsFigures.pdf
4 “What is Celiac Disease?” Celiac Disease Foundation. https://celiac.org/about-celiac-disease/what-is-celiac-disease/
5 “Autoimmune disorders.” Celiac Disease Foundation. https://celiac.org/about-celiac-disease/related-conditions/autoimmune-disorders/