There is often attention that shines on things like heart disease, cancer awareness, and general wellness. There are, however, different diseases that often go overlooked because they are lesser known or simply not talked about. A perfect example is celiac disease. Today is National Celiac Disease Awareness Day and while this might be something that you don’t usually think of in older age, seniors are just as susceptible to it as anyone else.
The purpose of this recognition day is to take a moment and reflect on the things that might seem small but can have major impacts on our lives. The concept is to educate ourselves about this type of condition which affects millions of lives on a global scale. You may or may not know what celiac disease is and if you haven’t we’re going to give you an explanation.
We’ll also explain why it’s important to know about this, its impact on different people…especially seniors, and the importance of raising awareness about it because no disease or disorder should go overlooked or unlearned.
It Can Be A True Affliction
Imagine a situation where just a single bite of bread could cause a variety of unpleasant and oftentimes symptoms that are difficult to manage. For those with celiac disease, this is not a hypothetical scenario but a daily reality. Celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder triggered by the ingestion of gluten which if you didn’t already know is a protein found in things like wheat, barley, or rye.
This might not sound like a big deal but for someone who suffers from celiac disease, having something like a slice of pizza or an assortment of pastries could mean consistent abdominal pain, general discomfort, diarrhea, or even fatigue. While most people may say that those things just come from consuming a lot of food, these symptoms are often present in just one small portion of food with gluten.
What really sets celiac disease apart is its silent nature. Many people go undiagnosed for years and they suffer from mysterious ailments and digestive discomfort without realizing the root cause. This is where the importance of awareness becomes so vital because not many people associate their general abdominal pain with a disease. This is why it’s important to at least know what to look for so that you can tell the difference between a simple stomach ache or being bloated from eating too much a disagreement that your body has to something found in most foods today. This is especially important for seniors.
Are You Curious About What A Diagnosis Would Look Like?
Celiac disease is notoriously tricky to diagnose. The symptoms can be very vague and overlap with a variety of other conditions. This makes it easy for both doctors and patients to overlook or completely dismiss them as anything other than what they seem like they could be. Fatigue, bloating, abdominal pain, and diarrhea are just some of the common symptoms experienced by those with celiac disease. Nausea, vomiting, and constipation as well as unexplained weight loss are all things that you have to keep an eye out for as well. Left untreated, especially if these symptoms persist or have no immediate cause, these things can lead to serious complications, including malnutrition, osteoporosis, infertility, and an increased risk of certain cancers.
If you have celiac disease or are concerned that you do, it’s important you keep up with a gluten-free diet. A lot of people may brush something like this off but this is essential to know because celiac disease can occur at any age and without proper maintenance, you are at a significantly higher risk of developing intestinal lymphoma or even small bowel cancer.
The diagnosis of celiac disease typically involves a series of blood tests and, if necessary, an intestinal biopsy. Once confirmed, treatment is simple but it can be very life-changing. As mentioned, the solution would be a strict gluten-free diet and it unfortunately isn’t negotiable if you want optimized health and comfort.
Keeping a Few Things in Mind for Seniors
Keep in mind that celiac disease doesn’t discriminate by age and that seniors are not immune to its effect. Diagnosing this disease in seniors can be especially challenging because the symptoms often mimic other age-related conditions.
One of the reasons for underdiagnosis in seniors is the misconception that celiac disease only affects the young and you now know that this obviously isn’t true. This belief can lead healthcare providers to overlook celiac disease as a potential cause of different symptoms. As a result, many seniors may endure years of discomfort and declining health without realizing that celiac disease is the actual problem.
With that, realize that celiac disease can develop in seniors even if they have had no prior history of gluten intolerance. Basically, it’s not uncommon for seniors to experience their first symptoms of this disease later in life. As a senior, try to keep an eye on any health problems you may currently deal with. For example, older adults with untreated celiac disease are at a higher risk of osteoporosis. This is due to malabsorption of calcium and other nutrients. Detecting and managing this disease, especially when you first notice symptoms can help mitigate this risk.
Additionally, be aware of what you eat day-to-day. Older adults, along with just about any other age group often rely on processed foods, which can be a primary source of gluten. Migrating over to a gluten-free diet can be challenging but it can make a difference if you are concerned about your general diet.
Spreading Awareness Where It’s Needed
Now that you know a bit more about this disease, you should have an idea of what to look out for and how to protect yourself as a senior if you do develop this type of concern. National Celiac Disease Awareness Day is a clear reminder that awareness can change lives if we allow it to. By understanding the challenges faced by those with celiac disease and taking action to support and educate others, we can open more doors for people who often overlook things that feel normal or short-term before those things become long-term complications.
Whether you have to go completely gluten-free or not, this type of diet can be beneficial for anyone of any age and will often optimize your health in the process.
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