May is a time to learn about celiac disease. With all the gastric issues, autoimmune diseases, and dietary troubles or allergies we are seeing in the world, one can see how this is important. Of course, this has been a personal struggle for me, so it means something more.

I learned about celiac and gluten sensitivity (most commonly known as gluten intolerance) about 20 years ago. The easiest way to think of these is: Celiac is when your intestines can no longer heal from the damage sustained from gluten while gluten sensitivity is when you still can.

My diagnosis came before it was a mainstream thing, when foods were neither marked clearly, nor branded for gluten-free buyers. This meant I had to contact all the manufactures to learn what their ingredients were, who they purchased from, and what their buyers yielded their products from (i.e. rice, corn, or some other grain). I often cried IN THE GROCERY STORE, much to the embarrassment of my children.

I understand the importance of awareness because it wasn’t until Miley Cyrus made it popular to eat gluten-free before there was a change in product availability. As Miley brought interest to this diet, demand rose and manufactures started to sell items clearly identified and branded for consumers seeking gluten-free items. With this came options for people with gluten sensitivities and celiac disease. So let’s keep pushing for awareness so we can keep opening doors for all people, especially as we see an increase in these diseases.

“Celiac disease is an immune disease in which people can’t eat gluten because it will damage their small intestine. If you have celiac disease and eat foods with gluten, your immune system responds by damaging the small intestine. Gluten is a protein found in wheat, rye, and barley.”