Celiac Disease: What You Don’t Know Might Hurt You

When diet is wrong, medicine is of no use. When diet is correct, of medicine there is no need.”
— Ancient Ayurvedic Proverb

Since October is still being recognized as celiac disease awareness month, I decided to share some interesting facts about the disease from the Canadian Digestive Health Foundation (CDHF) that many people might not be aware of. The stats indicated apply similarly to the U.S. and Canada. The CDHF is a great resource for many diseases of the gut.


I encourage you to share these facts with people you care about, as there are far too many people who still understand very little about the disease (and the seriousness of it), or have it without knowing it. The disease is not just gastroenterological; it is also systemic, which means if left untreated (without the proper diet in place), celiac disease can negatively affect any part/system of the body.

  • Celiac disease is a specific digestive disorder of the nutrient absorbing part of the gut called the small intestine. Celiac disease is also an autoimmune disorder — the immune system is reacting against the gluten protein, causing damage to villi and loss of surface area for absorbing nutrients.


  • More than 330,000 Canadians (about 1% of the population) are believed to be affected by celiac disease but only approximately 110,000 are diagnosed (only 1/3 of known cases).


  • From the first recognizable onset of symptoms, it takes an average time of 1 year to obtain a diagnosis of celiac disease. In some cases, the time to diagnosis may take as long as 12 years.


  • Delayed diagnosis of celiac disease increases the individual’s risk for the development of serious chronic medical issues which, in turn, will increase their use of the health care system and reduce their ability to contribute to society.


  • Access to gluten-free foods prevents families with celiac disease from traveling, dining out, and taking part in social activities, thereby decreasing their quality of life while increasing the indirect costs associated with the disease.


  • Rates of celiac disease have nearly doubled in the last 25 years in western countries.


  • The risk for developing celiac disease is increased 20 times for those who have a 1st degree relative with the disease.


  • Nearly 30% of Canadian children with celiac disease are initially misdiagnosed.


  • As many as 30% of celiac disease patients may develop a malignancy (e.g, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma), adhering to a gluten-free diet is critical for preventive purposes in spite of the personal costs.


Do you or someone you care about have celiac disease? Are any of the facts listed above new to you?

Lisa Cantkier is a passionate holistic nutritionist and a lifelong celiac who is committed to helping others live well with food allergies/intolerances and special diets. For more information, visit LisaCantkier.com

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