As you may know, May is Celiac Awareness month – at least in some states. So what does this exactly mean? Well, it’s an opportunity for us all to focus on spreading the news about Celiac disease to help build awareness and generate support for this disease. As you know the more awareness there is about Celiac disease, the better it is for us all. I’ve watched this first hand over the past 10 years. Years ago, it was very difficult to get a diagnosis from a physician or work with a dietitian who was knowledgeable about Celiac disease and what was and wasn’t acceptable on the diet. Store-bought foods were difficult to find and those that were available were very sub-standard in taste (in my opinion, anyways). It was nearly impossible to go out to eat at a restaurant and have any confidence that the meal you were getting was gluten-free (in fact, you were lucky if anyone at the restaurant even knew what gluten was).
With the help of organizations like the American Celiac Disease Alliance, the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness, the Gluten Intolerance Group, the Celiac Sprue Association, the Celiac Disease Foundation, and others, amazing accomplishments have been made on building awareness. During the past few years, there has been incredible advances in research, recognition and understanding about celiac disease. There has been changes in product labeling to the Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act, and an exponential growth in gluten-free products. And awareness with the general public, the media, and the restaurant industry has also grown tremendously. In fact, now when I speak to just about anyone it is not uncommon that they know of at least one person who has gluten-intolerance or sensitivities.
There is still a lot to be done. More improvements can still be made. So, what can you do to help? Simply talking about celiac disease helps raise awareness and educate others. There is also a large effort to have May designated as the National Celiac Awareness Month. With a new Congress and new President, we’re having to start again to provide key information to new policymakers. Legislators are needed to address FDA’s delay on the gluten-free labeling, and other issues like – labeling for prescription drugs, and helping students and the elderly obtain GF meals at school and in nursing homes. Last year, over 100 major medical groups, organizations, food companies, restaurants, and other businesses endorsed the National Celiac Awareness bill. If you have a company that would like to support this bill you can send an email to email@example.com; include Support Celiac Awareness in the subject line, along with contact information.
Another way in which you can help as an individual is to write to your Representative. Ask him or her to cosponsor Rep. Lowey’s bill. You can email your legislator directly by going to the 'Action Alert' section on the ACDA website at www.americanceliac.org/advocacy.htm.
Building awareness will make living with celiac disease better for us all – better products, better medical treatment, better restaurants, better labeling for food and prescription drugs, and better services (schools, nursing homes, etc.).
Please spread the word and help build awareness for Celiac disease!