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Celiac Disease Awareness

May 01, 2022

Celiac disease affects approximately 1% of the Canadian population, although up to 70-80% of those with celiac disease remain undiagnosed. Celiac disease can develop and be diagnosed at any age.

In individuals with celiac disease, a protein called gluten, found in some grains (wheat, barley, rye and triticale), triggers the immune system to attack the small intestine. Over time, this can cause damage, preventing the body from properly absorbing nutrition, and contributing to several other symptoms.

Symptoms can be very different between individuals, including classic symptoms like stomach pain and diarrhea/constipation. Symptoms may also include vitamin/mineral deficiencies, osteoporosis, fatigue, infertility, damage to tooth enamel, and neurological problems such as depression and seizures. Some people may not have any noticeable symptoms at all!

Celiac disease is diagnosed with a combination of blood tests that look for specific antibodies, followed by an intestinal biopsy (tissue samples taken from the lining of your intestine) to confirm the diagnosis.

While there is no cure for celiac disease, the condition may be managed by following a strict gluten-free diet for life, and following up regularly with your health provider. Including a registered dietitian with experience in celiac disease management is also of benefit to celiac patients.

Eating a gluten-free diet doesn’t have to be bland – there are now endless resources available from educational materials to cookbooks, and products on grocery store shelves that make eating well with celiac disease delicious and healthy. A registered dietitian and your local Canadian Celiac Association chapter can help provide support in finding tools and resources that work for you.

Previously, blood screening for celiac disease carried a cost of $60-$150 for the patient. Following a pilot project from November 2021 – March of 2022 in Ontario, the project has been extended to cover the cost of the test until March 31, 2023.

If you suspect you or a family member may have celiac disease, or for more information about screening, speak to your physician or nurse practitioner and visit: Celiac Blood Test Ontario - Canadian Celiac Association.

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