Tag Archives: celiac disease advice

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Happy Gluten-Free Spring

I intended for this post to be an overview of a recent review article about celiac disease written by three prominent celiac researchers in the UK, Drs. Mooney, Hadjivassiliou, and Sanders. However, after just doing 7 hours of online continuing medical education modules, my heart and brain are not cooperating, and I am also ready to throw my laptop out the window. So I’m going to shorten my post by quite a bit and save the life of my computer…

Below are the “take home” messages of the article, as well as some interesting comments on the original article that were published by another physician. Please bear in mind that I am “translating” from medical terminology to lay terminology, so if anything seems confusing, just post a comment and I will clarify.

1. The prognosis for celiac disease is good and those with celiac have a normal life expectancy.

2. The gluten free diet is currently the only treatment for celiac disease (this is the only 1 of the 6 that I was told when I was diagnosed).

3. Although the risk of lymphoma is greater than the general population, it is small, and being on the gluten free diet reduces the risk of lymphoma.

4. The average celiac patient has low bone mineral density, therefore, adequate vitamin D and calcium intake must occur.

5. If patients do not get better on the gluten free diet, then they need to seek medical advice as this indicates that there is either ongoing gluten exposure, or another condition that needs to be evaluated.

6. Close family members have a 1 in 10 chance of also having celiac disease; 1st degree relatives (parents, siblings, and children) should be screened.

Dr. Andrew Smith, also from the UK, had some interesting comments about this article in regards to the role of an endoscopy and biopsy in the diagnosis of celiac disease. I’ve cut and paste a few of Dr. Smith’s statements below (originally published online in the British Medical Journal on 3-12-14).

“The article is an interesting and informative overview of coeliac disease. However, the discussion related to the necessity of a duodenal biopsy in adults seems comparatively inadequate; especially considering that it is reported that European guidelines provide an algorithm for avoidance of biopsy in children.”

“The formal diagnosis of coeliac disease seems to be an academic endeavour in certain cases. If an adult patient has resolution of symptoms on a gluten-free diet, especially if combined with high serological markers, can this not be enough to recommend continued trial of dietary gluten avoidance? Even if the patient has Irritable Bowel Syndrome with an element of gluten-sensitivity, the treatment will be the same. The insistence on endoscopy seems unnecessary in these cases; both in relation to patients’ perceptions and experience of such an invasive procedure and to the financial costs associated with it.”

“Another factor is that of an ethical one. It is well known that a fundamental basis of medicine is ‘primum nil nocere’ (‘first, do no harm’). It therefore seems erroneous to encourage patients to continue with gluten-containing diets whilst awaiting an endoscopy appointment, especially when serological tests can be taken within one or two days. Even more conflicting is prescribing individuals a ‘gluten challenge’ with the explicit aim to create the histological features, but also concomitant symptoms, to aid the diagnosis of a disease for which the treatment may have already had benefit.”

I think that Dr. Smith brings up some of the same questions that many of us, as patients, have had through the years, and it is nice to see that this is being debated and discussed.

On a totally unrelated note, sometime this week is my 4 year anniversary of being diagnosed with celiac disease and going gluten free (I’m not sure of the exact date but know it was around St.Patrick’s Day).

As a tribute I would like reflect on the ways that this diagnosis has changed my life for the better:

-I have energy and can run, chase my kids around the yard, ski, do yoga, and stay awake all day (and sometimes all night for work) without feeling like sleeping all of the time. My joint pains are gone and I feel younger than I did 4 years ago.

-I have been forced to eat healthier and provide my entire family with more nutritious food. I no longer take what I eat for granted, and I have mastered the art of label reading. I have also learned to cook and bake from scratch, something that I had never had to confidence to try to do in the past. I also have an excuse not to eat all of the junk food in the break room at work, donuts at conferences, etc.

-When we road trip and travel we have to plan out our food-related stops ahead of time, and no longer rely on eating at fast food places like McDonald’s. This has been a blessing, and just last week we discovered a super great eatery called Egg Harbor Café, with GF options, outside of Chicago while on a road trip. I highly recommend checking them out if you live or travel through the area, there are a bunch of locations.

-I have formed an incredible network of people with celiac disease and non-celiac gluten sensitivity around the world. And although I have met only a few of you in person, it is a joy to be able to communicate, email, and share ideas, stories, articles, laughs, etc. I am so grateful for your love, advice, and support.

-I’ve realized that I can live a full life, even with celiac disease and 2 other autoimmune conditions. Although it’s not always a piece of cake, celiac disease is not a death sentence (see #1 above) or a reason to hate the world. It has been empowering for me to triumph over celiac disease.

The next time I get glutened, I’ll have to remember to look back on this post. Dear Tom, if you are reading this, please remind me to do so!

Have any of you had experienced positive life changes following your diagnosis? If so, please feel free to share. I would love to balance some of the negativity and bitter feelings about celiac disease and living gluten free that seem to be increasingly prevalent these days in the internet world.

I won’t be writing much this spring, but feel free to post questions and comments either here or on my Facebook page, and I’ll respond as soon as I can. Thanks for reading and Happy Spring!

Reference:

Mooney, P., Hadjivassiliou, M., Sanders, D. Coeliac disease. BMJ 2014;348:g1561. Published online 3 March 2014.

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So you just found out that you have Celiac Disease….now what?

This post is in honor of all of us whose only advice was to “eat gluten free” after diagnosis!

1. Cry. Be angry. Complain. Mourn the loss of gluten from your life. You will never be able to eat pasta, pizza, chocolate chip cookies, or drink beer again. Feel sorry for yourself. Cry and yell some more. Get it all out, emotionally, at the beginning. FYI, I was so angry and in denial at first that I ate a whole sleeve of Thin Mint Girl Scout cookies and then cheesy pizza bread sticks within a 24 hour period right after my testing was complete…the effects on my body were so horrible, that I was able to then go gluten free and never look back (I just wish that I been smarter about choosing my last gluten-containing foods).

2. Learn about which foods contain gluten. There is a great list on the Living Without Magazine website (see link). Remember that you can never eat any of the following again: wheat (einkorn, durum, faro, graham, kamut, semolina, or spelt), rye, barley, triticale, malt, malt flavoring, and malt vinegar. Get used to reading ingredient labels and calling companies to inquire about gluten in foods and products. Two of my favorite lists come from the page www.withstyleandgraceblog.com:

Common sources of gluten

gf safe list

3. Purge your kitchen, bathroom, and medicine cabinet of gluten. You will give away/throw away more than you could ever imagine.  Gluten Free Makeup Gal’s website can help with cosmetics and www.glutenfreedrugs.com can help you to find out if gluten is lurking in your medications.

4. Get copies of your Celiac tests (antibodies, genes, pathology results). Read through them, learn from them, and share them with your family members who may need to be tested.

5. Find reliable sources about Celiac Disease and sign up for internet newsletters, Facebook pages, etc. My two favorites are the National Foundaton for Celiac Disease Awareness (www.celiaccentral.org) and the University of Chicago Celiac Disease Center (www.cureceliacdisease.org).

6. Do not give in to the urge to replace all of the foods you threw away (pastas, breads, salad dressings, etc.) with gluten free versions. Try one or two gluten free products out a week, as many of these foods are very expensive, may not taste good, and contain a lot of sugar and empty calories. Focus on eating a lot of whole foods (fruits, veggies, lean meats, fish, potatoes, etc) in the first few months if you can.

7. Explore shopping for GF foods online, as you may be able to save quite a bit of money. I’ve been able to order flours and mixes, i.e. Bob’s Red Mill, for almost 50% off what I would have paid at my local grocer.

8. Find a few “go-to” meals and snacks for when you are time pressed but need to be able to safely eat, i.e. Larabars and KIND bars.

9. Find a support group, whether it be it a local group or online. I have actually found some really nicely moderated support groups on Facebook.

10. Discuss whether or not you need supplements with your doctor or practioner. A lot of us are anemic and/or Vitamin B12 deficient in the beginning. It is important for us to have our Vitamin D levels and our thyroid function monitored. There is emerging information on the role of altered gut flora (bacteria) in inflammation of the digestive system, so you may want to consider a probiotic as well (see my post on probiotics for more details).

11. Encourage your family members to get tested. First degree family members (parents, siblings, and children) have a 1 in 22 risk of also having Celiac Disease. Second degree family members (aunts, uncle, grandparents) have a 1 in 39 risk.

12. Expect a change in how you socialize. Gone are the days when you can freely eat and drink whatever you’d like at every party, potluck, wedding, etc. Some people will go out of their way to accommodate you, and others won’t. Some will care about your diagnosis, and others won’t (and it will be difficult to predict who will care and who won’t). You will feel “left out” at least some of the time. Get used to bringing your own food and snacks wherever you go. I always bring a GF item to every social gathering I attend, so that I am assured that there will be one food that is safe for me to eat.

13. Take care of your body. Run, walk, do yoga, meditate. Use your diagnosis as an opportunity to take charge not only of your diet, but your overall well-being. Once I was gluten free, I was able to run again after years of not having the endurance to run more than 2 miles.

14. Cry. Be angry. Complain. There will be good and bad days at first, but with time, the good days will outnumber the bad. It will get easier, I promise!

One of my favorite reminders to take care of myself:

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