Going gluten free has become a popular lifestyle change for many people; some adopt it for weight loss, while others try it to reduce chronic stomachaches and headaches. For those with celiac disease, however, going gluten free is quite literally a life-saving decision.
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), an estimated one in 133 people in the United States have celiac disease, but only 10 percent of them have received a diagnosis. Like many autoimmune diseases, celiac is a difficult condition to diagnose, complicated by its hundreds of possible symptoms, ranging from abdominal pain to skin rashes, and from anemia to seizures. To help spread awareness of this chronic condition, the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness (NFCA) and other organizations sponsor Celiac Awareness month in May of every year.
Celiac disease is an uncommon autoimmune disorder that damages the absorbent inner-layer of the small intestine whenever gluten, the main protein found in wheat, is consumed. Over time, consistent damage to the intestines causes malabsorption of nutrients, causing malnourishment and chronic symptoms that, in severe cases, can lead to more serious conditions, such as osteoporosis and cancer. One of the few autoimmune conditions with an identifiable trigger—gluten—celiac disease can only be treated by a diet that removes all traces of gluten. To date, there is no cure.
In recognition of Celiac Awareness Month, some companies specializing in gluten-free fare are raising money in addition to awareness to help fund research for medical treatments and even a cure. Below is a list of several of these companies:
- Berghoff Catering and Restaurant Group
- GF Apparel
Beat the Wheat 5K Race and Walk: Taking place in Sylvania, OH on May 17th, this fun run also features a special gluten-free food fair.
Catwalk for Celiac: Hosted by the Teens Living with Celiac Foundation, this fashion show fundraiser was first held in Jersey City, NJ and going on this year on May 17th. All proceeds this year will go toward a special day camp held for children with celiac disease, projected to open this summer.
In addition to physical events, there are many virtual events as well, hosted by popular celiac websites and gluten-free bloggers:
NFCA: This year, the NFCA is featuring a mysterious “big reveal” starting May 1st. The only hint as to what it is is their call for anyone suffering from celiac disease to send in a picture of themselves.
Celiac Disease Foundation: To celebrate Celiac Awareness Month this year, the Celiac Disease Foundation (CDF) has released a free seven-day gluten-free meal plan in support of individuals with newly-diagnosed celiac disease and their families. Also, while it technically takes place in June, the CDF is also holding the annual National Conference and Gluten Free Expo in Pasadena, CA.
Gluten Dude: Popular celiac blogger “The Dude” is promoting Celiac Awareness Month with a “30 Days of Helping 30 Celiacs” blog series posted over 30 consecutive weekdays. Already begun, his post subjects range from inspirational stories to helpful advice.
Celiac and the Beast: Highlighting over 30 brands, from Beanitos to Enjoy Life Foods, this month-long event will feature Twitter parties, videos and a daily giveaway from every featured brand.
The celiac disease diagnosis rate in the U.S. and elsewhere may still be abysmal at only 10 percent, but experts are optimistic that these events occurring during Celiac Awareness Month in May—and often again in October—will to help increase public awareness and fund research for a cure.