Gluten is poison to a Celiac patient’s body, and for all intents and purposes, Gluten is analogous to the serious danger that peanuts pose to someone who is afflicted with severe peanut allergies. In other words, Celiac Disease must be treated as seriously as nut allergies are with respect to the danger that nuts pose to someone who is afflicted with severe nut allergies!
Some would say that Celiac Disease should not be viewed in the same light as nut allergies since Celiac patients do not go into anaphylactic shock from Gluten ingestion. However, that is like saying that a Concussion Protocol should not apply to a person who suffers a head injury, but who does not become unconscious. Today, we treat all head trauma seriously since there can be critical short and long-term consequences from not implementing a concussion protocol, even if the immediate impact of the head trauma is not visible.
In other words, after being exposed to Gluten, Celiac patients such as my son can suffer both serious short-term symptoms such as diarrhea and vomiting and long-term medical complications including liver disease, inflammatory bowel disease, osteoporosis, neurological conditions, immunological scarring and cancer. The emotional toll to Celiac patients and their parents cannot be ignored either and must be considered as part of the holistic approach to accommodating Celiac Disease, which is an invisible illness.
While eating Gluten/Gliadin does NOT initiate an anaphylactic cascade reaction in someone with Celiac Disease, any accidental ingestion of Gluten or even a trace amount from cross-contamination can set back the healing of the small intestine, which at this time is possible only through strict adherence to a medically required Gluten Free diet.
Accidental or intentional Gluten exposure can trigger new damage to a Celiac patient’s small intestine that could take additional years to heal and cause other serious medical complications and developmental issues that are associated with uncontrolled Celiac Disease. Currently, there is no medication available to take or treat an accidental ingestion of Gluten [i.e. EpiPen for nut allergies], so that is why reasonable preventative measures are so important. To that end, that is why our society and schools must view Celiac Disease as seriously as nut allergies.
According to Yvonne Vissing Ph.D. and Christopher Moore-Vissing in their article, “Going Gluten Free as a Human Rights Issue”,
“Unlike a peanut allergy that can directly kill you, exposure to gluten may result in morbidity and early mortality for people in an indirect fashion. Adhering to a gluten-free diet is of paramount importance to avoid health problems such as compromising one’s weight and pubertal development, fertility, bone mineral density, and deficiencies of micro and macronutrients, not to mention the increased risk of developing malignancies, especially in the gastrointestinal system.”
Many schools have developed common sense food allergy policies that apply to nut allergies and are designed to keep students safe and feel included, and these same food allergy policies should be applied to those who suffer from Celiac Disease as we continue to provide students with a healthy and safe environment to learn, grow, and thrive.