COVID-19: Get the latest information, visitor restrictions, and service changes

Celiac Disease

Where did my gluten go?

Have you been noticing how many foods are suddenly labeled as gluten-free? Do you find yourself wondering what gluten even is? Gluten is the name of a group of proteins found in grains. The gluten in wheat, rye, barley, and oats are harmful to people with a disease called Celiac Disease. People with Celiac Disease cannot eat foods with gluten in them because gluten causes their immune system to attack the lining of the small intestine.

Quick Facts about Celiac Disease:

  • About 1 in 133 people have Celiac disease, but only 3% will ever be diagnosed.
  • Those with the disease CANNOT eat wheat, rye, barley, and sometimes oats.
  • They CAN eat corn and rice.
  • Average time to diagnose Celiac Disease is 11 years from the start of symptoms.
  • People with the disease have weaker immune systems.

This disease is not an allergy, but rather a genetic condition that can become active at any point in a person's life. Usually something like an illness or a stressful event causes the disease to begin. Once activated, people with Celiac Disease have immune system responses every time they eat food with gluten. Their immune system destroys the lining of their small intestine and prevents absorption of food and vitamins. This can lead to many problems, including irritability, diarrhea, food cravings, weight loss, and malnutrition.

Celiac Disease was first documented in the 2nd Century, but it took until 1888 for a man named Dr. Samuel Gee to actually realize food was the cause of the problem. September 13th is designated National Celiac Disease Awareness Day in honor of Dr. Gee's birthday, since he was the first person to link diet to treatment of Celiac Disease.

For more information, visit the National Celiac Association website or call 1-877-CSA-4-CSA. You can also find information about how to attend one of their Virginia support groups in Midlothian, Roanoke, and Salem.

Article provided by Teri Brown, Intern from James Madison University Community Outreach.