The Public Should Be Made Aware of Celiac Disease

Have you ever heard of “Celiac Disease”? Don’t worry, not many people have. Celiac Disease is a serious medical condition where your small intestine is hypersensitive to gluten(Mayo Clinic). When people with Celiac Disease consume even a trace of gluten, it causes symptoms ranging from severe fatigue and migraines lasting anywhere from 24 hours up to several weeks, to painful skin rashes that spread throughout the body(Mayo Clinic).

But I’m sure you’ve heard of the term “Gluten intolerance”.

Am I right? That is because 18 million Americans have gluten sensitivity which happens to be about six times the amount of Americans who have true Celiac Disease(Beyond Celiac). People all across the globe claim they are ‘allergic to gluten’ when they begin getting symptoms like a small stomach ache after eating gluten in large quantities. They will go to the doctor and the doctor will advise them to simply avoid mass amount of gluten, giving them the idea that they are now “completely gluten free”.

By labeling themself as “completely gluten free”, they put more and more people who are legitimately diagnosed with Celiac Disease at risk for consuming cross contaminated gluten substances, causing them extreme long term physical pain and suffering. Gluten Intolerance and fad diets lead to misconceptions because they cause society to take Celiac Disease lightly and influence food companies to mislabel their gluten free products.

About seven years ago, my older sister Troiahna was diagnosed with Celiac Diseases. What started out to be small dizzy spells and slight tingling in her hands and feet grew to be something so much worse.

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Just days after we caught signs of her first symptoms, her condition got so bad to the point where she couldn’t even get up out of bed in the morning; her extreme muscle fatigue was so severe that she could hardly walk to the bathroom. As a fifteen year old Sophomore in high school, this practically demolished her academic, extracurricular and social activities. She had to say goodbye to her perfect 4.0 GPA, leadership role in her local community Interact club, state title for running Cross Country and even some of her closest friends.

The journey was long and challenging for not only her, but her doctors and loved ones as well. Even Seven years ago, Doctors had far less knowledge on Celiac Disease than they do now. Before officially being diagnosed, we went to the doctors clinic nearly every day running tests and doing blood work to try to figure out what exactly was wrong.

In the meantime, her condition kept getting worse and worse. When they eventually decided to put her on a 100% gluten-free diet, we had no idea the extremity of what that meant. We soon learned a very valuable lesson. No gluten really means No gluten! We had to section off part of our kitchen as a designated “No-Gluten-Zone”. We had to buy her all new kitchen appliances to ensure no crumbs from our morning breakfast toast get stuck in the toaster and end up touching her gluten- free bread (yep-cross contamination is the real deal folks).

We even had to get her new makeup because a lot of lipstick and even chapstick brands contain traces of gluten! Now it may seem like I am exaggerating, and trust me I wish I was, but everyone who is officially diagnosed with Celiac Disease has to deal with severe limitations; especially when it comes to cross contamination.

I’m not saying people who are gluten intolerant don’t have legitimate physical repercussions when they consume gluten, but they only have issues upon consumption-not cross contamination and the repercussions are not as dire. Big difference. When more and more people are claiming that they have a “gluten intolerance”, major food companies manufacture and label “gluten free” products that are not “Certified Gluten Free” for those with Celiac Disease. In fact, from 2004-2005 alone, sales for gluten free food increased by 77.8 million dollars (a growth rate of 14.6%) but only 3.4% of those dollars are “Certified Gluten Free.”(University of Chicago Celiac Disease Center.) Where do the other millions of dollars go, you might ask? They go to cross-contaminated foods that are not Certified and are harmful to those with Celiac Disease.

The food companies recognise there are far more people claiming they have “Gluten Intolerance” than people with Celiac Disease, so they want to make the most bang for their buck by selling to a larger audience. Those “gluten free” labels are all well and good with people with a Gluten Intolerance, but often times contain cross-contamination of gluten in the factories where they are made. When the majority of the money is being spent on non-certified gluten free foods, it makes it difficult for people with Celiac Disease to obtain safe and healthy food options. Unfortunately, people like Troiahna get ahold of these so-called “gluten free” foods and end up on the couch for weeks on end-or worse-in the hospital.

Not only is it an issue with big companies and food corporations, but it is an issue everywhere you go. Going without gluten is also a popular “fad diet” that a lot of people try out because they say it makes them “feel better” or think it’s a healthier lifestyle. When they do this, they desensitize what it truly means to go “gluten free” which makes society as a whole more susceptible to this falsified definition and creates a dangerous misunderstanding.

About a year after Troiahna was diagnosed, she and I attended a reception for one of our best friends, Aubrey, who offered Troiahna a special homemade dish for dinner and insisted it was “gluten free”. Troiahna politely declined, as she usually does, but Aubrey told her that she has friends who eat “gluten free” and makes food for them all the time and they have no issues. Troiahna agreed, lighting up in excitement, to eat Aubrey’s homemade dish.

It didn’t take long for Troiahna to realize that the dish was not completely gluten free after all… The following day she had intense sharp stomach pains and a rash so bad she couldn’t even wear full length pants. Come to find out, Aubrey’s friends who she normally makes “gluten free” dishes for and have no reaction are actually “gluten intolerant” and don’t have Celiac Disease. Aubrey isn’t to blame in this situation, simply because she wasn’t aware of the different gluten free qualifications.

Gluten Intolerance can trick a lot of people into thinking that all people who are gluten- free don’t have to worry about cross-contamination. It’s the “disease” that cried wolf. The more informed people who properly educate others about the difference between Celiac Disease and Gluten Intolerance, the less problematic events will arise in the future.

All of us need to be more careful around people with Celiac Disease and take the matter more seriously. For instance, everyone knows someone with a severe allergy that requires an epipen and immediate medical attention and everyone tends to take those events extremely seriously. While the result of someone with Celiac Disease doesn’t necessarily have the same immediate effects, the symptoms are just as severe and happen gradually and painfully. If we are as careful around people with Celiac Disease as we are people with a peanut allergy for instance, it will bring awareness to society and food corporations and eliminate the harmful physical damages caused by misunderstanding and cross-contamination.

Nobody wants to have their life turned upside down like my sister Troiahna and nobody wants to see their loved ones go through the same challenges that she had to face. So please! Bring awareness to this issue and take Celiac Disease seriously- it will truly change lives.

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The Public Should Be Made Aware of Celiac Disease. (2023, Jan 07). Retrieved from

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