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May is Celiac Awareness Month

May 11, 2021

Author: Marissa Lustri, MPH, RD, Program Assistant at Nutrition Connections

On May 16th, you may notice certain iconic landmarks (like the CN Tower) have a green light shining on them1. This is because May 16th is internationally recognized as Celiac Awareness Day and is part of a larger month-long campaign shining light on the seriousness of this disease1.

Celiac disease is a genetic autoimmune disease that impacts approximately 1 in 100 people across the globe2. When an individual with celiac disease consumes gluten, their body’s immune system recognizes the gluten protein as a threat and attacks it2. This is serious because the attack occurs in the small intestine, which is where nutrients are absorbed2. During the attack, the intestinal lining is damaged2. This damage is irreversible and can result in decreased absorption of nutrients, “leading to malnourishment, and a host of other problems including thyroid disease, osteoporosis, infertility and the onset of other autoimmune diseases”2.

People often think celiac disease is a 21st century ailment, when in fact the autoimmune disease dates back to the beginning of humans, known as the Neolithic Period3. During the Neolithic Period, humans acquired their food through methods of hunting and gathering3. Like everything else in life, these practices began to evolve, leading to the proliferation of the agricultural revolution3. At this time, a number of food antigens came to the forefront, including processed grains, which is said to be the start of celiac disease3. Though this is recognized as the official beginning of the disease, it was not officially recognized until 8,000 years later by a Greek physician3

While the research over the years has allowed us to develop the understanding we currently have today, there is still more that needs to be done2.

During the month of May, the Canadian Celiac Association (CCA) is encouraging people to use the hashtag #shinealightonceliac to help raise awareness1. The CCA has also scheduled a number of events to help support those living with celiac disease, those wanting to learn how to better support those with celiac disease, and those that are trying to deepen their current understanding. Visit to learn more!


  1. Awareness month activities. (2021). Canadian Celiac Association. Retrieved from:
  2. A united celiac disease awareness campaign. (n.d.). Shine A Light On Celiac. Retrieved from:
  3. National celiac awareness month and history of celiac disease. (2010). Retrieved from:


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