(WYTV) – May is Celiac Awareness Month. It’s often referred to as an “invisible disease,” but celiac is a serious, genetic autoimmune disorder that affects an estimated 3 million Americans. However, a lot of people still don’t know about it.
You may have heard the popular term “gluten-free.” Some think of it as a fad diet, but for those who have celiac disease, it can be life-changing.
Celiac is triggered by eating a protein called gluten, which is found in wheat, barley and rye.
When a person with celiac eats gluten, the protein interferes with the absorption of nutrients from food by damaging a part of the small intestine called villi.
The damage makes it almost impossible for the body to absorb nutrients into the bloodstream, leading to malnourishment and a host of other problems.
Dr. Christine Pasquarella with Akron Children’s Hospital explains.
“It targets the small intestine and really the villi, the purpose of them is to absorb your nutrition. So if you have celiac disease, the gluten that you can’t tolerate breaks those villi down and now you can’t absorb your nutrition anymore. So it has long-term effects on not only growth, and it can also cause GI [gastrointestinal] symptoms,” she said.
An estimated 1 in 133 Americans, or about 1% of the population, has celiac disease.
For more information, head over to the Celiac Disease Foundation’s website.