May is Celiac Disease Awareness Month, a time for celiacs worldwide to come together and highlight the struggles and issues surrounding this autoimmune disease and its management. That’s why we’ve created this blog to spread awareness around celiac disease and give you tips on how to live with it.
What is celiac disease?
Celiac disease is an autoimmune condition. If you have celiac disease, eating gluten — a protein found in wheat, rye, and barley — will trigger your immune system to attack the lining of your small intestine. When this happens, it can make it difficult for your body to absorb the nutrients from food.
If you think you may have celiac disease, you might be considering a gluten-free diet. If you try this and feel an improvement in your symptoms, but want to get tested, know that you’ll need to eat gluten again before you get the test. Otherwise, you may not get an accurate result. Also, if you’re considering starting a gluten-free diet, you may want to speak to a health professional to ensure you’re getting all the nutrients your body needs.
What are the symptoms of celiac disease?
The symptoms of celiac disease vary from person to person. Some people may experience none at all, while others may experience severe symptoms. These include:
- Abdominal pain
- Nausea and vomiting
- Weight loss or weight gain
- Bone or joint pain
- Fatigue and weakness
If you’re experiencing any of these symptoms, it’s important to see a health professional for assessment. Even if you don’t have celiac disease, you may be gluten-sensitive and feel better with reduced or no gluten in your diet. It’s also possible that you don’t feel better with a gluten-free diet, so it’s not a panacea.
Is there a cure for celiac disease?
Unfortunately, there isn’t a cure for celiac disease. The only treatment for celiac disease is a lifelong gluten-free diet. The goal of this diet is to eliminate all traces of gluten from your diet and allow your small intestine to heal completely so it can absorb nutrients properly again.
What foods can I eat if I have celiac disease?
Celiac disease is a lifelong condition, so it’s important to be aware of what you can and cannot eat. A dietitian, nutritionist, or other qualified health professional can help you learn about your options for a healthy diet that includes foods that are safe for your body.
Here are some gluten-free foods that you can eat:
- Gluten-free grains: rice, corn, quinoa, and buckwheat (note that the latter two are actually seeds, but are cooked like grains)
- Gluten-free flours: almond flour, coconut flour, potato starch, and arrowroot powder
- Gluten-free oats (make sure they aren’t processed in the same equipment that processes wheat products)
- Beans: black beans, kidney beans, lentils, chickpeas, and edamame beans
If you have celiac disease, it’s important that you follow a strict gluten-free diet for life. You may also find it helpful to carefully select where you eat out. Ask restaurants if they can accommodate your gluten-free requests, including not using the same utensils and cooking tools for your gluten-free meal as they use for other gluten-containing foods.
Can reishi mushrooms help treat celiac disease?
Reishi mushrooms have long been used in Chinese medicine to improve health and treat various ailments. They contain many active compounds including triterpenoids, polysaccharides, and ergosterols that help improve immune function.
Some studies show that reishi mushrooms may help improve symptoms of patients with celiac disease by reducing inflammation caused by an autoimmune response triggered by gluten ingestion. If you’ve been “glutened,” taking reishi mushrooms may help you suffer less and recover more quickly.
The more that awareness is created around celiac disease, the more it can help give those diagnosed with it a chance at living a happier and healthier life because people won’t just assume that those asking for “gluten-free” are doing it to follow a health trend. The month of May is dedicated to raising as much public awareness as possible and giving those with celiac disease a chance to embrace a brighter future.