Estimates place the number of Americans with celiac disease at around three million, making it twice as common as Crohn’s disease, ulceric colitis and cystic fibrosis combined. Despite this staggering figure, only 150,000 of them have been diagnosed. Celiacs are lucky, however, that after a correct diagnosis, treatment is simple, effective, and not drug-based: the gluten-free diet. As effective as it can be, the diet poses many challenges and requires major lifestyle changes. Fortunately, we have many celiac veterans, experienced in the gluten-free diet, actively reaching out to the gluten-free community and striving to raise celiac awareness and diagnosis. One of these experienced, informed individuals is Shelly Stuart, a registered nurse, whose website, Celiac Nurse, serves as a valuable resource for the gluten-free community.
Stuart’s understanding of celiac disease is based on her own personal experiences going for years without a proper diagnosis for her symptoms until 2004. According to Stuart, she had a variety of “vague” symptoms for most of her life; these included indigestion and an “unusual heavy feeling” in her abdominal area after ingesting bread and pasta, restless legs, anemia, skin rashes, mouth sores, and more, which became worse after she had children. After her diagnosis, Stuart had relatives tested and found that her mother and daughter both had celiac disease, and her household is now gluten-free.
Stuart, who has been an R.N. for 20 years, owns a Vancouver-based company, Stuart Healthcare Solutions, which offers face-to-face celiac disease consultations for locals and a “tele-nurse service” for those who reside outside the area. This work on behalf of the celiac community wasn’t enough for Stuart, who decided to share her knowledge through the internet with a blog at CeliacNurse.com, which she started “with the hope that the information provided will increase the rate of diagnosis for Celiac Disease, gluten sensitivities, and food allergies.”
The website is a collection of information designed to educate people about celiac disease, gluten-sensitivity, and the gluten-free diet and lifestyle, and isn’t supposed to serve as a substitute for a medical diagnosis or treatment by a medical doctor. Stuart encourages everyone to be thoroughly checked out by an MD for their symptoms and to inform their doctor before starting the gluten-free diet.
The blog is a collection of information, gluten-free recipes, and educational materials. Topics range from updates on growing her gluten-free garden to gluten-free recipes to the connection between celiac disease and scoliosis. A particularly informative collection of posts enlightens readers about the wide array of gluten-induced physical and mental symptoms. A 12-part series, she covers the gamut thoroughly. For instance, Part Nine focuses on psychological and cognitive symptoms and Part Ten focuses on heart and lung symptoms. This is an especially critical subject because celiac disease is known for its variety and variability of symptoms, which contributes to the current poor diagnosis rate.
Although the current statistics may appear grim, we can surely raise the rate of diagnosis in this country with the help of gluten-free and celiac advocates and groups. Shelly Stuart is a stand-out example of the dedication it will take to improve the lives of million gluten-sensitive and celiac Americans. I hope many choose to follow her example.
The Food Intolerance Consumer: Gluten Intolerance and Celiac Disease http://www.foodintol.com/celiac.asp
Gluten Free Help: Home http://www.glutenfreehelp.info
Celiac Nurse www.celiacnurse.com
Celiac Nurse: 12-Part Series Disease Symptoms http://celiacnurse.com/category/12-part-series-cd-symptoms/.
Shelly Stuart: About http://shellystuart.ca/about/
From our home to yours, Miranda Jade.