Celiac Awareness Month 2023


United States

Celiac Awareness Month is an event held throughout the United States each May and is supported by the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness (and other relevant organizations).

This event raises awareness about celiac disease, and highlights the work of the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness (NFCA) which provides support for those affected. The NFCA, in collaboration with scientists and other organizations, also supports research into celiac disease.

What Is Celiac Disease?

Celiac disease is a genetic autoimmune disease which damages the small intestine. The small intestine is part of the gut which digests & absorbs nutrients from food. When the small intestine is damaged, the rate of nutrient absorption from food is reduced. Celiac disease can affect people in many different ways and symptoms vary in severity. Due to the large number of possible symptoms, there are 3 recognized types of celiac disease.

In many cases, where there are no noticeable symptoms, a person has 'silent coeliac disease'.

People with 'minor celiac disease' have minor symptoms. These can include a wide range of symptoms such as indigestion, bloating, weight loss, and mild abdominal pain.

People with 'major celiac disease' have severe symptoms which can be of great discomfort. These may include 'minor celiac disease' symptoms which are more severe, and other symptoms such as stomach cramps, diarrhea and muscle spasms.

People with celiac disease are sensitive to gluten which triggers these symptoms. Gluten is a protein found in grains such as barley, wheat and rye. Consumption of gluten can affect the whole body.

Celiac Awareness Month also raises awareness about sensitivity to gluten.

Treatment for celiac disease and gluten intolerance is straight forward; those affected are advised to avoid foods which contains gluten. This awareness event helps educate and inform the public about gluten free foods. However, it is not always easy to determine if a food item is gluten free; this event also encourages appropriate labeling on food items.

Many People Are Not Aware They May Have Celiac Disease

In the United States, approximately 3 million people have celiac disease; 21 million people have this disease or are sensitive to gluten. Of the 3 million who have this disease only 5% know they have it. This awareness event aims, in part, to make more people aware that they may have this disease and that by eating gluten free foods, they can eliminate their symptoms.

Activities & Events Throughout May

Throughout this month a number of awareness raising activities take place. These may include:

  • A Gluten Free Food Labeling Summit - in which a number of groups (researchers, legislators, food corporations) meet and campaign to have the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) enforce appropriate labeling of gluten-free food.
  • Ask The Dietitian - people use Twitter to chat with experts who give dietary advice.
  • Live With Jill's List - an event in which people can listen to and chat with a select panel who have expertise in celiac disease and gluten free eating. Jill's List is the name of a community based organization which focuses on health and wellness.
  • Webinars - these have included topics such as 'Maintaining A Healthy Weight While Living Gluten Free' and have also addressed needs and concerns of mature (60+) people affected by celiac disease or who are gluten intolerant.
  • Catwalk for Celiac - this is a fashion show, dinner and dance for all the family.

To reflect the statistic that 1 in 133 Americans have celiac disease, where appropriate, the NFCA sets recommended donations of $11.33 or $133 (although any figure is appreciated).

Various promotions may also run during this event.

Promotions have included clothing and stationary sales (a percentage of sales are donated to the NFSA), a gluten-free recipe contest, and a 'Thai Kitchen Watch and Win' where cooking videos are watched and a competition entered.

For more information visit the NFCA Celiac Awareness Month webpage.