Recently, the US Senate designated September 13th as National Celiac Awareness Day. By their resolution, the Senate “recognizes that all people of the United States should become more informed and aware of celiac disease.”
Among other celiac facts, the resolution states:
- “Whereas celiac disease is underdiagnosed because the symptoms can be attributed to other conditions and are easily overlooked by doctors and patients;”
- “Whereas as recently as 2000, the average person with celiac disease waited 11 years for a correct diagnosis;”
- “Whereas 1/2 of all people with celiac disease do not show symptoms of the disease;”
- “Whereas a delay in the diagnosis of celiac disease can result in damage to the small intestine, which leads to an increased risk for malnutrition, anemia, lymphoma, adenocarcinoma, osteoporosis, miscarriage, congenital malformation, short stature, and disorders of the skin and other organs;”
- “Whereas celiac disease is linked to many autoimmune disorders, including thyroid disease, systemic lupus erythematosus, type 1 diabetes, liver disease, collagen vascular disease, rheumatoid arthritis, and Sjogren’s syndrome;”
September 13th was chosen because it is the day that Dr. Samuel Gee was born in 1839. He was the first doctor to make the connection between celiac disease and diet and wrote, “if the patient can be cured at all, it must be by means of diet.”
Celiac Central has a list of 13 Ways to Celebrate Celiac Awareness Day. They also have Celiac Disease Symptoms Checklist that would be great to share with friends and family and could be shown to a doctor who is hesitant to test for celiac disease.
I am grateful that people and doctors are more aware of celiac disease than they were when I was diagnosed almost 11 years ago. In the past 18 months I personally know 4 people who have been diagnosed with celiac disease and 3 people who doctors have acknowledged as having gluten intolerance.
Unfortunately, at least one of the people with celiac has suffered for years.
Many doctors are still hesitant to test for celiac. Just as the gluten-free diet has become a fad for many people (even though it is not a fad for most of us), I feel like some doctors think that testing for celiac is just a fad in the medical community.
I talk to doctors about it whenever I can. I recently had a conversation about celiac with an ophthalmologist. He might not ever order a celiac blood test in his line of work, but who knows? He might certainly have conversations with other doctors.
Let’s do all we can to help people with undiagnosed celiac disease and gluten sensitivity find the answer to their problems.