Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Celiac Awareness Month

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By Diane Forrest, RN

When I was in nursing school we did a clinical at the pediatric hospital in Jackson, MS.  We spent a few weeks there learning about the problems, diseases, and how to care for children.  Taking care of children is a totally different ballgame.  Children are scared, confused, irritable, and would rather be outside playing instead of inside getting poked with needles or swallowing pills.   Many hospitals try to make the pediatric area as special as possible to keep the kids entertained while they receive their care.  The children also have the additional benefit of having a parent or other family member stay with them, which is always comforting for the child, but can be draining for the family.

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This was the case for one particular family, their child had several medical problems, and one of them was Celiac Disease.  This meant that the child was on a very restricted diet.  Back then, they didn't have as many gluten free products as they do today, so things were even more difficult.  Celiac disease is a condition that damages the lining of the small intestine and prevents it from absorbing parts of food that are important for staying healthy. The damage is due to a reaction to eating gluten, which is found in wheat, barley, rye, and possibly oats.

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The cause of Celiac is unknown.  It can occur at any time in a person's life, from infancy to adulthood.  It destroys the villi in the stomach lining and prevents the absorption of nutrients the body needs.  Symptoms include:
  • Gastrointestinal problems such as diarrhea, constipation stomach cramps
  • Bruising
  • Fatigue
  • Depression
  • Hair lose
  • Tooth damage
  • Irregular Menstrual Cycles
  • Poor weight gain
  • Delayed Growth

Celiac disease is diagnosed with a blood test or genetic testing.  It usually runs in families.  It is treated with a gluten free diet.  It will usually heal itself within 3 to 6 months for children, and up to 2 to 3 years in adults.

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May is Celiac Awareness Month.  For more information on ways you can help, click here:

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