19 Facts About Celiac Disease

Last updated on June 2nd, 2023

May is celiac awareness month, when, as explained by the Celiac Disease Foundation, “…the celiac community comes together and dedicates the month to raising awareness and funds for critical celiac disease research and pivotal advocacy efforts.” This list is based on a series of Grateful GF tweets originally posted in May, 2021 (emojis are left intact). For more original content follow Grateful GF on Twitter.

  1. Celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder triggered by gluten—a protein from wheat, rye, and barley. Small intestinal damage leads to malnutrition and then further health complications.
  1. The only treatment for celiac disease is food-based—a completely gluten-free diet through the avoidance of anything made from wheat, rye, barley, and most oats.
Felafel salad with side of fries
  1. Diagnosing celiac disease is usually a two step process, starting with a blood test. If that comes back positive, a biopsy of the small intestine is needed, and is considered the “gold standard” of diagnosis.
  1. Celiac disease is genetic but not inherited. Susceptibility runs in families, but CD develops when a person’s genes interact with environmental factors.
  1. Celiac disease affects about 1% of people around the world 🌎🌍🌏
  1. Villi, finger-like projections in the small intestines, create more surface area to absorb nutrients from food. Exposure to gluten causes inflammation that flattens out the villi, leading to malabsorption.
  1. A single crumb can cause intestinal damage and set off other symptoms of celiac disease.
Half mozzarella and roasted red pepper sandwich with crumbs on a white plate
  1. Once diagnosed with celiac disease, it takes a year or more of a 100% gluten-free diet for a person’s gut to heal.
  1. Gluten is a combination of storage proteins in cereal grains. Storage proteins in corn and rice are sometimes called gluten, but only gluten from wheat, rye, barley, and sometimes oats triggers CD.
  1. There are many gluten-free grains and pseudo-grains to try! 🍚
  1. Oat proteins don’t technically trigger CD, but oats often come in contact with wheat, rye & barley, leading to cross-contact. This can happen during harvest, transportation, storage, or milling.
  1. Gluten from barley shows up in some unexpected places including brewer’s yeast and malt. Check for malt in cereal, candy, malt vinegar, milkshakes and other sweetened milk drinks.
Single serving packet of malt vinegar
  1. Celiac disease is a life-long diagnosis. There are no gluten cheat days and people do not grow out of it.
  1. Food labeled “gluten free” must contain less than 20 parts per million (ppm) of gluten, because this is the lowest level that can be reliably detected 🧐

You might be interested in tips for saving money on a gluten-free diet.

  1. Most plant-based meat alternatives rely on vital wheat gluten for protein and texture, which means they’re off the menu for people with celiac disease.
  1. Although generally gluten free, french fries become cross-contaminated when fried in the same oil as gluten-containing foods. People with celiac disease need to ask restaurants if they use a shared deep fryer.
Basket of fries with chicken tender and lemon slice
  1. Some diners & restaurants have a secret ingredient for super fluffy scrambled eggs: pancake batter. Although eggs are naturally gluten free, people with CD need to check with their server that their eggs are GF.
  1. Most soy sauce contain gluten from fermented wheat. People with celiac disease need to look for gluten-free soy sauce made with rice, or gluten-free tamari instead.
  1. Diagnosed CD often comes with secondary lactose intolerance, due to intestinal damage from exposure to gluten. This is usually temporary, & it’s helpful to avoid dairy for a bit to allow the gut to heal.
white dish with strawberry-banana nice cream and spoon

Here’s how to make dairy-free Strawberry Banana Nice Cream.

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