It is a life-long autoimmune condition that affects 1 in 100 Canadians. Sadly, only 20% of those affected have a confirmed diagnosis. I’m speaking about Celiac disease, and in May, attention to raising awareness on what it is and how to manage it. Getting a diagnosis can take time. A simple blood test is required. If positive, a confirmatory biopsy can be performed, and if positive, the final step is to see improvement in symptoms after 6-12 months on a gluten-free diet. It is a serious condition in which gluten, a substance found in grains such as wheat, barley, and rye, damages the lining of the small intestine. In some, this can cause diarrhea, cramping and weight loss. In others, no obvious symptoms, but the absorption of nutrients such as fat, carbohydrates, protein, vitamins, and minerals are still affected.

More recently, there has been a trend toward gluten-free diets, and some people claim to be sensitive without any diagnosis. This has led the Canadian Celiac Association to highlight celiac, for it is a life-long disease with no cure. It is not a fad diet or a condition of which one might outgrow. With the hashtag #Itsnotpretend, they hope people will recognize the gravity of this disease that affects individuals and their families and provide support to those through pre-diagnosis to empowered Celiacs.

May 16th represents International Celiac Awareness day, and landmarks across Canada and the US will be lit green to #Shinealightonceliac. This year another concern is gluten-free food insecurity. Gluten is widely used in the production of many processed and packaged foods, medicines, and cosmetics. For some, finding gluten-free sources can be expensive and difficult. By shining their light, they hope that individuals, companies, and governments will recognize the importance of making these foods available and affordable to those who need them.