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National Celiac Disease Awareness Month!

“He who has health has hope, and he who has hope has everything.”

Arabian Proverb


What, Exactly Is Celiac Disease?

In short, celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder in which the intestines are damaged upon the ingestion of gluten. Gluten is a protein found in barely, rye and wheat and when it is consumed in affected people, their bodies will mount an immune response and attack itself. Microvilli lines your small intestines and helps your body take in nutrients from food into your bloodstream. Without the villi, your small intestine can’t get enough nutrients, no matter how much food you eat. So without proper nutrient absorption over greater periods of time, celiac can cause long term digestive and health problems.

Boulder Medical Center

Celiac is typically a hereditary disease and it is passed down in families who are genetically predisposed. It’s also important to remember that just because you are ‘at risk’ for developing the disease does not mean you will absolutely have the disorder. It is estimated that about 2 million people in the US suffer from celiac disease and approximately 1% of the global population. It can be triggered later in life from other stressors such as severe emotional stress, viral infection, pregnancy and childbirth.

How Do I Know If I Have It?

The good news for this condition a physical exam and blood test can often tell you if you are positive. You must be on a diet that contains gluten so doctors can look for a higher than normal count of the Tissue Transglutaminase IgA antibody (tTG-IgA) which you will have if gluten is in your system and your immune system is reacting.

To make things more interesting, you may also have celiac disease but not show any signs or symptoms and are not even aware you have the disease. There are over 300 known symptoms of celiac disease, so I just mentioned a few of them below.

  • Unexplained anemia

  • Chronic diarrhea and/or constipation

  • Gas and/or bloating

  • Vomiting

  • Unexplained weight loss

  • Tingling or numbness in the legs

  • Infertility

  • Blistering skin rash

Difference Between Celiac and Gluten Sensitive/Intolerant

There is a growing category of people who have a non-celiac gluten sensitivity (NCGS) meaning that they do not test positive for celiac disease but they do experience symptoms such as abdominal pain, bloating, diarrhea, constipation, headaches, low cognitive functioning, joint pain, and chronic fatigue when they have gluten in their diet. These symptoms usually resolve when gluten is removed from the diet. Up until 2016 it was believed that people with this condition do not suffer from damaged microvilli like people with celiac disease do. However, some researchers have found that wheat exposure within this group can trigger an immune response and intestinal damage.

What Do I Eat?

If you are NCGS or positive for celiac disease, following a gluten-free diet will be the most effective treatment. This is a diet you will need to follow for the rest of your life, especially for celiac disease. Symptoms could take as little as a few days to settle down but repairing the microvilli in the intestines could take up to several years. Regular visits with a registered dietitian who specializes in gluten-free living as well as your doctor will be instrumental in developing a path to health and wellness in living with celiac.

When first navigating this condition it might seem fairly straightforward regarding what foods to avoid. You can find the most common ones below.

Gluten That Occurs Naturally in Certain Grains:

  • Wheat and types of wheat, such as durum, emmer, semolina, and spelt

  • Barley, which may be found in malt, malt extract, malt vinegar, and brewer’s yeast

  • Rye

  • Triticale, a cross between wheat and rye

But, make a note that wheat, and therefore gluten, have a way of finding its way into food items you would never assume could contain wheat. You can see some more uncommon foods below.

  • Salad dressings

  • Corn and rice based cereals

  • Condiments including: soy, teriyaki and ketchup, mustard and barbecue sauces

  • Sausages

  • Plant-based meats

  • Ice cream

This could sound daunting and overwhelming at first but food companies are becoming more aware and accommodating to gluten sensitivities and intolerances. You may even find an aisle dedicated entirely to gluten-free foods in a grocery store near you. It is important that you educate yourself and perhaps do a bit more research than you would like at first, but you need to know what could potentially make you sick and what foods you can freely enjoy, stress free. This is a big life shift, and it will take some time but the good news is, people who suffer from gluten related illnesses who seek adequate treatment have a strong outcome of success. A silver lining spin on all this could perhaps be the start of an even healthier whole foods lifestyle than those that don’t suffer from celiac disease. The body will eventually heal itself and you’ll be feeling better than ever. Like I always say, take things one day at a time and….Remember….Health starts from the inside out….but also from the ground up!

To discuss more detailed information regarding the topics within this blog, or to inquire about customized nutrition plans, please reach out to Cathleen Winter at

A Little About Me

My name is Mary DeBlasio, and I live in Silver Spring, MD. I recently graduated Magna Cum Laude with a Bachelor of Science in Nutrition and Dietetics in May of 2021. I am very interested in mindful eating, and foods that correlate with the seasons. I am currently working as a WIC Nutrition Assistant in Washington, DC. All my information is backed by credible sources cited within the blog.


38 foods where gluten may be "hidden". Gluten Intolerance Group. (2021, August 2).

Celiac disease. Johns Hopkins Medicine. (n.d.).

Celiac disease: Symptoms, causes, treatment & diagnosis. Cleveland Clinic. (n.d.).

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (n.d.). Definition & Facts for celiac disease. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases.

What is celiac disease? Celiac Disease Foundation. (n.d.).

Watch "Gut Reaction" now. Beyond Celiac. (2021, February 8).

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