People with celiac disease can't process gluten in their diets, a protein found in many foods.
Celiac disease is becoming more and more prevalent, but it can be very hard to recognize. Symptoms are extremely vague: abdominal discomfort, rashes, headaches, feeling generally tired and weak. But doctors say those can all be symptoms of a number of autoimmune diseases, which is why doctors have a hard time diagnosing someone with celiac.
It can be difficult to distinguish celiac disease from a wheat allergy. Someone with a wheat allergy shows immediate symptoms after eating gluten products, but with celiac, it may be hours before you see any symptoms.
"Barley, wheat, oats and rye will interact with the lining of the gut you make an antibody and then the antibody then attacks you and it's almost a form of an autoimmune disease and it can attack various organs of the body," says Aspirus allergist Dr. David Edmondson.
Edmondson says the surest way to know if someone has celiac is to do a biopsy of their intestines. But people can also have a blood test done, a less invasive and relatively reliable test.
One woman has lived most of her life not knowing she had celiac disease, but found support in others with the illness.
Christa Savage-Gore knew she wasn't healthy, but she spent most of her life trying to figure out why. She grew up with skin rashes and a weakened immune system. It took until she was 38 years old to be diagnosed with celiac disease.
"My doctor couldn't really tell me what was wrong you know because the symptoms are just so vague you know you just don't feel good," Christa says.
She says it's pretty shocking to hear that you can't eat bread or noodles or anything like that possibly ever again.
When Christa discovered she had celiac, she had a hard time adjusting to a life without gluten, a protein that's in many common foods. But she found a group of people that could help her better understand how to cope with her new diet.
The Celiac Support Group meets once a month. And they have special meetings for parents with children suffering from celiac. It's a way to share resources and ease the transition to a gluten free diet.
"To help you work through this process and find out where do we get our gluten free products and whats good and what we can have to eat," says Jennifer Knauf, leader of the Wausau Celiac Support Group.
For Christa, her celiac diagnosis ended up changing her life.
"I feel much better that I'm not itching anymore i also have more energy I'm able to play with my kids more," says Christa.
While celiac disease can be scary at first, more and more places in the area are adding options for those who are living gluten free. And Wausau's Celiac Support Group is hosting several events this year.
For more information, click here to visit their website.