Did you know many people go undiagnosed, and do not even know what Celiac disease is? According to Chicago University Celiac disease Center, "Three million Americans have Celiac disease, and 97 percent of them are undiagnosed." I have Celiac; but I was (luckily) diagnosed when I was 4. It has been a hard journey for me going gluten free, but once I finally made the commitment, I felt so much better. If I had not been diagnosed, I would have gotten hives all over me, and had constant severe stomach aches.
Celiac disease is an issue that probably more than half of our town doesn’t even know about. According to the CUCDC, "Celiac disease is an inherited autoimmune disorder that affects the digestive process of the small intestine. When a person with Celiac disease consumes gluten, a protein found in wheat, barley and rye, the individual’s immune system responds by attacking the small intestine."
Celiac disease can cause problems with kids from a woman not being able to have kids, to kids getting bullied in school. According to CUCDC, "610,000 women in the U.S. experience unexplained infertility, 36,600 of these women might never learn that Celiac disease is the cause."
There are many ways that Celiac disease can affect people, and mental health just happens to be one of them. "Research suggests that Celiac disease can manifest itself through psychological problems which influences mental health." That means that celiac disease may affect a person’s thinking, emotions, and behavior.
When people with Celiac disease consume gluten it not only makes them sick, but is also unhealthy. According to NFCA, "Celiac disease can cause psychological problems such as: irritability, drowsiness, sleep disturbances, and loss of appetite." This means that people with celiac disease can experience different kinds of psychological issues. If a person is experiencing any of the above issues, they can’t focus in school or on the job. It affects their ability to learn, and work because, in my own experience, it is very difficult to work when I am drowsy, or upset.
Lots of people don’t know how prevalent Celiac is, but here are some statistics to answer most of your questions. "Celiac disease affects three million Americans, and 97 percent of them are undiagnosed." This means that over two million Americans have Celiac disease, and more than half of them don’t know it. "Without treatment, people with Celiac disease can develop complications such as: osteoporosis, anemia, and cancer." This means that people who don’t get tested, and treated may get very serious illnesses.
Some kids depend on school lunches because their parents can’t afford to make them lunch, but there are no actual gluten-free options for kids with Celiac disease. There are a lot of kids who have Celiac disease, but can’t have school lunches because there are not any options available, except salad. According to Living Without Magazine, "Kids are more vulnerable to bullies when they have Celiac disease, and can not have school lunches." I do think other kids might notice, and pick on that kid. To me that means kids are having trouble in school because they are bullied about having Celiac disease (which I have experienced myself).
It is difficult for people with Celiac disease to go out to eat because of their constant concern of gluten exposure. Waiters and waitresses who are not informed about Celiac may inadvertently misinform people about the menu items or mistakenly serve food with gluten. They may also not warn the chefs, or just tell them to pick it off (which is not okay). What people with Celiac can do is: tell the waitstaff and kitchen staff their situation, and recommend good gluten free products and companies.
People can also type up some information on what Celiac is, and a couple things people might not know, print it, and maybe laminate it (if you can). Keep it in your wallet, or purse, then show it to the waiter, or waitress, so that they know what not to do, so the person that they are serving does not get severely sick in their boss’s establishment.
I hope that you, and other Brattleboro citizens help support people with Celiac disease, and gluten sensitivity, so that more people in our community are happy, healthy, and safe. I believe with some help, time, and consideration our town can become more caring. Also at school if you feel excluded, or left out talk to the principal, or guidance counselor, and tell them how you feel, and I am sure they will help you with your situation!
If you are someone who believes that there should be more gluten free options, and you don’t know how to help you should write a letter to the people who order the food for your school telling them about Celiac, and gluten sensitivities as well as how it affects the kids in your school I am pretty sure they would be happy to help. If you can’t, or would prefer to talk to the principal, or guidance counselor about how you feel, and what you want them to do I am positively sure they will help you.
Addie Lane Peterson is a member of Julie Rosenberg’s sixth-grade class at Academy School in Brattleboro. This is the first in a series of letters submitted as part of a project organized by Rosenberg. Other letters will be printed as space allows.