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400,000 Canadians Could Have Celiac Disease Without Knowing It

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May is Celiac Awareness Month in Canada – and May 16 is International Celiac Awareness Day

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MISSAUGA, Ontario, May 16, 2022 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — On Celiac Disease Awareness Day, the Canadian Celiac Association (CCA) says as many as 400,000 Canadians could live with the autoimmune condition, without a diagnosis.

“I have this brain fog…”

“Why am I so tired all the time?”

“My whole body aches – but my doctor can’t say why. I’m so frustrated!”

These are the kinds of situations that thousands of Canadians may encounter. The question to be asked often: “Could it be celiac?”

Celiac disease is an inherited autoimmune condition in which your body perceives gluten as an invader, causing your immune system to fight back to destroy the gluten protein found in foods containing wheat, barley, or rye. Over time, this immune reaction damages the lining of the small intestine, preventing the body from properly absorbing nutrients. This can lead to a variety of complications, symptoms, and even serious, long-term illness.

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“We call celiac disease ‘chameleon disease,’ because it can present in many different ways, causing symptoms that may seem completely unrelated to the digestive system,” said Melissa Secord, national executive director of the Canadian Celiac Association (CCA).

Because of its wide range of symptoms, people with celiac disease may not consider it to be the cause of their ailments, and it is often not a top priority for clinicians trying to diagnose the problem. It’s estimated that 85 percent of Canadians with celiac disease go undiagnosed — accounting for more than 400,0001 People – although a simple blood test can identify it.

“A lot of people suffer and are frustrated, but it doesn’t have to be this way,” Secord says. “More people need to ask their doctor, could it be celiac?”

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Real life stories of celiac

Canadian speed skater Kristen Nesbitt is an eight-time world champion and two-time Olympic gold medalist. As a high-performance athlete, she has spent her career under the watchful eye of coaches, doctors, and nutritionists. However, she experienced the pain and discomfort of celiac disease for five years before anyone discovered it.

“As an elite athlete, I have always been pushing myself physically and mentally. I have had a lot of digestive, nutrition and skin issues, but it was always thought of as being caused by the stress and rigors of training and the stress of racing,” Nesbitt said.

I thought, ‘My iron is low because I train a lot and need to eat more iron-rich foods’ or ‘I’m tired and probably not eating enough’ or ‘I pushed myself too hard some of my training sessions. Celiac testing hasn’t been on anyone’s radar for years and years.”

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For Sonia Pereira, a Vancouver-based writer and content creator, celiac disease has affected her neurologically. She had episodes of not being able to speak properly or being unable to read a computer screen. It also affected her balance and coordination. Sonya interviewed a large number of specialists, trying to determine what was wrong.

“I was misdiagnosed as having a stroke. I almost went from ‘I had a stroke’ to ‘we had no idea’ and ‘maybe something like a migraine,'” she says.

It took more than four years and 30 doctors to finally diagnose Pereira’s disease with celiac disease. “Even the doctor who found out about my disease, that wasn’t his number one, but number three on his list of three things…that’s why, for anyone on ‘what’s wrong with my spectrum,’ have them run (blood test).”

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Pereira says that within two weeks of removing gluten from her diet, she “was back to normal.”

If you think you may have celiac disease, visit the CCA website at and use our online diagnostic tool. The information it provides can help facilitate a more informed discussion with your doctor. A blood test for celiac disease is covered by all public health insurance plans in all provinces except Ontario where it is covered temporarily under a pilot program until March 31, 2023.

Although there is no cure for celiac disease, it can be effectively managed by eliminating gluten from the diet. The Canadian Celiac Association has partnered with Gluten-Free Promise to help advance options for people with celiac disease.

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“Eating gluten-free is not the end of the world anymore,” says Muhammad Safi El-Din, Canada commercial director for gluten-free Promise. “There’s great tasting, high-fiber bread, chips, pita, and so much more to help you eat well and stay healthy.” Promise Gluten Free is the official sponsor of Celiac Disease Awareness Month.

Selek Awareness Day – “Shine with Light” Lighting Locations
On Monday, May 16, iconic buildings around the world will be lit green to raise awareness of International Celiac Awareness Day. The Canadian locations that will be green lighted are:

City Hall – Dieppe, Nb (NB) (every May)
City Hall – Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island
The Ottawa Sign (ByWard Market), Shaw Center – Ottawa (May 16-20)
Toronto Sign, CN Tower – Toronto
Niagara Falls (10 p.m. May 16)
Cambridge sign – Cambridge, Ontario
Winnipeg Sign (Forex), Manitoba Legislature – Winnipeg
High Level Bridge, Macdonald Hotel, Ebkor Tower – Edmonton
Sherwood Park Community Center and Festival Place – Sherwood Park, AB
Calgary Tower – Calgary
BC Place, Science World, Burrard Bridge, City Hall – Vancouver

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About the Canadian Celiac Association
The Canadian Celiac Disease Society’s vision is to see every Canadian with celiac disease diagnosed and empowered. Since 1973, CCA has been raising awareness of the disease, investing in research and providing programs to support people with gluten disorders with the help of local chapters across Canada in most major cities.

About the Gluten Free Promise
Promise Gluten Free offers an irresistible range of gluten free bread, made using a unique bread making technology that delivers excellent taste and quality. From a soft white loaf to a brioche loaf and a gluten-free promise, it offers the best in delicious, nutrient-rich baked goods that everyone will love.

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All produced by Promise’s family-run, family-run, gluten-free bakery with over 50 years of artisanal baking experience and available in Canada nationwide via our online Real Canadian Superstore; Avril. IGA. Saskatoon CO; farm boy; Food Basics Frugal Foods. Subis Urban Safe Road; Freshko. Foodland, some metro and whole foods.
To know more details, please check our website

  1. Conservative estimates are that 1% of the population has celiac disease, or 386,815 Canadians. Of them, only 15% (58,002 people) were diagnosed, leaving 328,793 Canadians likely to have celiac disease but not yet diagnosed.

Bob Reed
Canadian Celiac Association

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2022-05-16 10:09:52

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