May is Celiac Awareness Month

The wheat grown by American farmers feeds the world – except for those afflicted by a serious autoimmune disease. During the month of May – Celiac Disease Awareness Month – the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness encourages individuals to learn the important difference between those who choose to follow gluten-free fad diets and those who are gluten-free because they have to be.

For individuals with celiac disease, their immune system identifies gluten as a threat to the body. When someone with celiac eats something containing gluten, their body goes on the defensive to protect itself. This results in the small intestine suffering collateral damage.

Specifically, celiac disease affects the carpet of small, finger-like projections that help the body absorb vital nutrients, called villi. As a result, the small intestine can no longer absorb essential nutrients, no matter the person’s diet. This causes a variety of defects including iron deficiency, indigestion, nausea, abdominal pain, lactose intolerance and weight loss.

 Celiac Disease affects less than one percent of the American population, four times more common than 60 years ago. For these three million Americans, the only current prescription is to follow a gluten-free diet. That means eliminating all wheat, barley and rye.

But, Kansas wheat farmers, through the Kansas Wheat Commission, are working to potentially change that requirement through science. This research is the most comprehensive study of wheat proteins related to celiac disease. This two-part approach involves identifying the varying levels of reactivity to different wheat varieties as well as identifying the exact proteins that cause a celiac reaction.

The result of this research could allow wheat breeders to someday create varieties of wheat that would be celiac safe… But would still contain the gluten needed to make that great loaf of bread.

Find more resources on the importance of celiac disease testing from the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness. Now that you know what Celiac Disease is, take a quick look at gluten!

Author: Jordan Hildebrand