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Making Connections: Step Beyond Celiac 5K

August 30, 2021

Two Step Beyond Celiac 5K participants jump in the air in joy.

Have you ever heard the gut called the second brain? If you’ve ever felt butterflies when you were nervous or made a “gut decision,” you might understand why that is. But in recent years researchers are finding more and more data to support what’s called the gut-brain connection. 

What is the gut-brain connection?

The brain and the gut (more scientifically referred to as the enteric nervous system or ENS) are closely entwined, and it’s clear that when one suffers, so does the other. For example, when you’re stressed out about a job interview or a big test, you may see the results in the gut: diarrhea, constipation, or a stomach ache. The reverse is true, too—when your gut is struggling, perhaps as a result of celiac disease or a chronic bowel disorder, you may see symptoms expressed mentally: with anxiety, depression, irritability, inability to focus, poor memory and more. 

The gut-brain connection is an understudied area in celiac disease research, but we at Beyond Celiac believe that it’s research that’s imperative to understanding just how deeply and widely celiac disease affects the body. So we have begun to fund this research ourselves! Using our patient registry Go Beyond Celiac we collected information about neurological symptoms associated with celiac disease, and before that we surveyed the community about a widespread and debilitating symptom: brain fog. Most recently we awarded a grant to researchers in England who scan the brains of those with celiac disease to understand how the disease temporarily or permanently affects the brain. It’s truly important work and we hope you’re as invested as we are.

Caring for the mind is caring for the gut

The flipside of this gut-brain connection is that when one thrives, the other does too! This means that for those with celiac disease, staying gluten-free can be an important part of caring for mental health, and caring for mental health can be an important part of encouraging the gut to heal. We want you to be the healthiest you can be, so below are a few ways to care for your mental and emotional health, aside from staying gluten-free. (You’re probably an expert in staying gluten-free already, but if you’re having trouble, we have plenty of online resources!) 

  1. Connect with the community. Feeling connected to a community that understands celiac disease and how tough it can be to stay gluten-free helps individuals feel less alone in their diagnosis. We have active communities on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter
  2. Rely on your existing network. If you have friends or family that support you and do their best to look out for you, that’s better than gold. Spend quality time together! Fulfilling relationships connect an individual with the rest of the world. 
  3. Exercise your body. The benefits of exercise are uniquely positioned to address some problems associated with celiac disease, like poor bone health, anxiety, brain fog, and depression. Exercise releases endorphins, increases blood flow to the brain, and weight bearing-exercises encourage bone growth. It’s an accessible and free way to care for yourself.

Making connections

What better way to care for your gut-brain connection than to participate in our Step Beyond Celiac 5K? It allows you to connect with the gluten-free community, connect with your existing friends and family when you ask them to join or help you train, and encourages you to exercise. On top of all that, the proceeds from the race will go toward celiac disease research, so we can one day have treatment options in addition to the gluten-free diet, or cure for this serious autoimmune disease. Not to mention that you get a free t-shirt and gluten-free swag if you sign up before September 10. It’s a win-win all around!

If you’re local to Philadelphia, swing by FDR park on September 26, 2021, and join in on the in-person 5K festivities. If you’re not local or you wish to participate from the comfort of your own neighborhood, you can sign up for our virtual option, run wherever you are, and engage with the community online. Learn more about setting up a fundraising team here and work together to raise funds and have fun!

To be clear, exercise and social relationships are no substitute for staying gluten-free, but they are important tools to lead a healthy and happy life with celiac disease. Until we have a treatment or a cure that better allows us to live healthy lives across all aspects of life—body, mind and soul—we must use any tools at our disposal, like exercise and community. Will you make the connection and Step Beyond Celiac with us? Sign up today.

Think you may have celiac disease?

Symptoms Checklist