May is National Celiac Awareness Month
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May is National Celiac Awareness Month

Posted on Thursday, May 16th, 2013 at 1:37 pm
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gluten-free-symbolDuring the month of May, the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness wants you to learn more about celiac disease, how to get tested for it, and how it can affect you and your family. The theme for this year’s National Celiac Awareness Month is “Fuel the Family,” which is aimed at encouraging family testing for celiac disease. Research has shown that having an immediate family member with celiac disease greatly increases your risk.

What is Celiac Disease?

Celiac disease is an autoimmune disease that is triggered by the ingestion of gluten. Gluten is a protein found in wheat, barley and rye. It’s estimated that 1 in 141 Americans have the disease, yet 83% of them are undiagnosed or misdiagnosed. When a person with celiac disease eats gluten, the villi (fingerlike projections) in the intestine are damaged, which interferes with the absorption of nutrients. This hereditary condition can affect men and women of all ages and races.

What are the Symptoms?

Classic symptoms of celiac disease include weight loss or growth failure, anemia, and diarrhea. Other symptoms can include abdominal pain, a rash, fatigue, or headaches. When untreated, celiac disease can increase your risk of osteoporosis, infertility, thyroid disease, and certain cancers. It’s important to talk to your doctor if you think any of your symptoms are related to gluten ingestion.

How Can I Get Tested?

A simple blood test is the first step in getting tested for celiac disease. Your doctor may call for an intestinal biopsy as well. Be sure to continue eating your normal diet (including gluten) during testing. Most health insurers will cover the cost of the test, and your primary care provider should be able to administer it.

Additional Information

Gluten-free labels can be found on several natural food packages. Most doctors and dieticians recommend that people should continue to eat gluten unless there is a medical need  to avoid it. A gluten-free diet is not meant for weight loss. In fact, many pre-packaged gluten-free foods are high in sugar and calories. Be sure to always check the label!

Naturally gluten-free foods include fresh fruits and vegetables,  nuts, beans, seeds, and fresh fish and meats. Grains such as quinoa, teff, and millet are also gluten-free. For those with celiac disease, a completely gluten-free diet is the only “cure” for the disease. There are currently no procedures or medications to treat the symptoms.

What Can I Do During Celiac Awareness Month?

The main goal is to spread the word about Celiac Disease. If you think you or anyone in your family is affected, visit your doctor and get tested! You can also host a fundraiser and donate the money to the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness (NFCA). The NFCA uses the money to educate physicians and restaurants about the gluten-free diet. They also use the money to offer free resources to patients with celiac disease.

For more information, visit the official website for the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness.

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Good Tip: Saving money is important – especially if you have a lot of expenses like bills to pay, loans to pay off, and all the other things that drain your bank account. Figuring out a way to save money can feel tedious to some, and like a punishment to others. U.S. News suggests that you try one of these money saving challenges. The “No Eating Out for a Month” Challenge This one is self-explanatory. The goal is to avoid eating out for an entire month. This might be super easy for people who enjoy making meals at home. People who really enjoy dining out, or ordering food to be sent to their home, may struggle with this one. It’s worth a try because spending money on take-out is more expensive than buying groceries. The Pantry Challenge This one is a variation of the “No Eating Out for a Month” challenge. The goal is to use up all of your groceries before you buy more. It forces you to try and remember why you bought a food or beverage that you don’t know what to do with, and gives you the opportunity to find a way to use it. The one exemption to this challenge is the foods that have expired. Don’t eat them! Throw them in the trash. The “No Spend” Challenge Make a goal to avoid spending money during an entire weekend. The only exemption in this challenge is that you are allowed to pay bills. This challenge is interesting because it requires creativity. You must be creative and find workarounds for problems that you would typically solve by spending money. You may have a different outlook on spending after finishing this challenge.