Celiac disease is an immune disease that leaves a person unable to eat wheat, rye, or barley. A person with celiac can go through a broad variety of uncomfortable symptoms, but a lack of awareness about the disease can cause it to go undiagnosed for years.
That’s the thought behind House Bill 72 offered by St. Clair Republican Nate Tate. Tate’s daughter, Grace, suffers from celiac disease, often referred to as “gluten intolerance,” and she actually suggested the proposal.
“My intent for this bill would be to help raise awareness for everyone including doctors, because it seems like it takes doctors a long time to say, ‘You know what, it might be celiac disease,’” Tate told the House Committee on Tourism.
HB 72 would designate the second Wednesday in May as “Celiac Awareness Day” in Missouri. That would fall during national Celiac Awareness Month.
Tate told the committee it took more than five years for Grace to be diagnosed, during which time she endured the symptoms of celiac while going through a series of treatments and tests that did nothing to ease them.
“The last four, five, six visits before he decided to do the blood test, he was like, ‘Well it might be celiac but let’s try this.’ The next visit, ‘Well it might be celiac but let’s try this first,’ and that happened five, six, seven times,” said Tate. “A simple blood test – whenever she was already getting blood tests done for other types of things – would have detected it.”
There is no treatment or cure for celiac disease. The only thing Grace and other sufferers can do is closely watch what they eat and avoid even the smallest amounts of gluten.
“It is stressful,” Grace told the committee. “If I have gluten – even just the littlest thing – I will be in so much pain for hours and hours. It used to be a lot more stressful because there was almost no gluten free food that we could find back when I was young, 5 and 6, but now there’s a lot more restaurants you can eat at and a lot more gluten free foods that you can find.”
Like her father, Grace hopes that passing HB 72 would make more people – particularly doctors – aware of celiac and shorten the time it takes for a person to be tested for it.
The committee has voted 8-0 to advance the legislation.