It is my pleasure to announce that Governor Nathan Deal has declared May Celiac Disease Awareness Month in Georgia. May is the perfect time to raise awareness about this serious autoimmune disease that affects more than three percent of the population and roughly three million people nationwide. I was diagnosed with celiac disease more than 17 years ago and it is time to learn more about this disease that has a growing impact on our state.
What is celiac disease you ask? Well, it isn't a fad diet, it isn't a marketing ploy to be used liberally by product manufacturers, and it sure isn't anything to be made fun of by anyone (especially the media). It is an autoimmune disease that affects one in 133 people in the United States. It is a genetic disease triggered by the consumption of gluten (from wheat, barley, rye and cross contaminated oats) that damages the small intestines and leads to malabsorption. Once diagnosed, the only treatment for celiac disease is life-long adherence to the gluten-free diet. There are no pills to take, or treatments to try, rather people have to remove gluten and its derivatives from their diet for life.
I have been blogging about the gluten-free lifestyle for almost five years, I served as the program chair for GIG of Atlanta for five years, I worked as a gluten-free buyer for close to five years, and now I own a consulting company that guides local businesses on their path to gluten free. Anyone who thinks gluten-free is a trend that is going to fade away is mistaken.
Having the support of the Governor's office is very important considering the growing number of people who are being diagnosed with gluten intolerance and non-celiac gluten sensitivity in Georgia. The more local awareness there is about the disease, the easier it will be for people to get diagnosed, to buy groceries, to eat out at restaurants, and to feel accepted by the community.
Thank you Governor Deal (and staff) for issuing this proclamation. The gluten-free community appreciates your efforts.