University of Nebraska Medical Center

International Celiac Awareness Day May 16

story contributions by Mariah K. Jackson, PhD, RDN

In support of International Celiac Awareness Day, on May 16, the Davis Global Center will unite with communities around the world in lighting up landmarks green to raise awareness of celiac disease, gluten-free food insecurity, and the need for more research.

Celiac disease is a genetic autoimmune condition that mainly affects the gastrointestinal tract when gluten is ingested and affects at least 1% of the population and upwards of 83% of people with celiac disease are undiagnosed. Currently the only treatment for celiac disease is the lifelong adherence to a strict gluten-free (GF) diet, therefore awareness and education is vital for life-long healthy living for those with celiac disease. Celiac disease results in extraordinary economic and individual costs, where 1 in 6 people with celiac disease are food insecure and food insecurity dramatically decreases the ability to adhere to a gluten free diet. 

Mariah Jackson, PhD, RDN, in addition to her role as an Assistant Professor of the Medical Nutrition Program, CAHP, volunteers as an Omaha Local Partner Group Leader with the National Celiac Association (NCA) and serves on the National Celiac Association Medical and Nutrition Advisory Board. The NCA is a non-profit organization that is dedicated to educating and advocating for individuals with celiac disease and non-celiac gluten sensitivities, their families, and communities throughout the country. They provide crucial resources such as regular educational webinars, support networks throughout the nation, 1:1 phone and email support, a gluten-free food assistance program, top notch publications such as Gluten-Free Nation and NCA News, and much more.  

Dr. Jackson says, “Living with celiac disease has been an integral part of my life. While I’ve had a lifetime to learn and adjust to eating gluten free, it can be very overwhelming or even lonely for those just starting, so I love being able to guide those needing support.” The NCA launched the Feeding Gluten Free program in 2020 to support local food pantries in providing gluten free options. Dr. Jackson states, “Gluten free food is commonly much more expensive than its gluten-containing counterparts, and because eating gluten free is a medical necessity for those with celiac disease, it can exacerbate food insecurity.” 

Jackson contacted offices of Nebraska Governor Jim Pillen and Omaha Mayor Jean Stothert leading to both leaders to make a formal proclamation that May 16, 2024 is Celiac Disease Awareness Day in Nebraska and in Omaha.

Learn more about celiac disease and how you can help raise awareness and support at https://nationalceliac.org/  and the Shine a Light on Celiac Disease in Your City international awareness campaign. 

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