Editor's Note: This article was originally written by community member Melina Young.
Hello HealthCentral community members My name is Melina Young and I have celiac disease. I was diagnosed in 2010 and have a separate post all about that. Celiac disease is an intolerance to gluten products. Contrary to what many people believe, celiac (also known as celiac sprue) is not an allergy - it is an autoimmune disease. Gluten is a protein found in wheat, barley and rye and so everything that is made with (or near) those products. I am not a doctor, so my explanation is the third-grade version, but basically, when someone with celiac disease ingests gluten (even as little as 1/4 of a teaspoon) it causes their intestines to flare up and try to attack it like an enemy. As an unwanted consequence, the intestines attack themselves causing the villi (what allow us to absorb nutrients from our food) begin to die making the person lethargic, often having headaches, skin conditions, malnourishment and other side effects. If left untreated, this can become life threatening.
According to the Celiac Disease Foundation, one in every 133 people in the U.S. has this autoimmune disease and more than 90 percent of cases are undiagnosed. The only treatment for celiac is a completely gluten free lifestyle - forever. So needless to say, it causes a bit of a change in the American diet! But, enough about that for now...I will talk more about the ins and outs of celiac in future posts.
A little more about me - I live with my husband and step-son in Washington state. I love to sing, go to the theater (and movies), watch and play soccer, laugh and learn as much as I can. I am the marketing manager of a credit union here and really love what I am doing. In my spare time, I teach a lot of people about gluten and celiac disease. The more people are aware of this disease, the easier it will be for all of us.
Do you have celiac disease or does someone in your family have it? I would love to answer any questions you may have about this autoimmune disease.