Living With Celiac Disease: One Woman's Story

Celiac disease can be treated simply by adhering to a gluten-free diet. Today, doctors, grocery stores and restaurants are becoming increasingly familiar with the autoimmune disease. Chains like Outback Steakhouse and Maggiano's Little Italy are catering to gluten- free diets, and mainstream manufacturers like General Mills are offering options for celiacs, such as a gluten-free version of its Chex cereal and Betty Crocker baking mixes.

Maltin is now the food and lifestyle editor for "Delight Magazine," a new publication devoted to gluten-free living.

Normalizing Celiac Disease

"The really cool thing about 'Delight Magazine' is that its making celiac disease and gluten intolerance normal. It's teaching people who can't eat certain things how to live normally," said Maltin, who expects the magazine to hit Barnes and Noble and Borders in August and is pushing to network with hospitals and doctors offices across the country.

Part of the reason increased awareness for the condition is important is because celiac disease can be difficult to diagnose. The symptoms are vague and wide-ranging from abdominal pain and bloating, to joint pain and muscle aches, as well as depression and anemia.

For an accurate diagnosis, one must have a blood test to screen for the presence of specific antibodies in addition to a biopsy of the intestine, before adhering to a gluten free diet. There are also new home diagnostic tests available for preliminary screening.

"The general population needs to be aware of celiac," said Murray. "If someone thinks they have the disease, they need to be tested for it before they change their diet because if they change the diet first, the blood tests and even the biopsies can become negative."

Cheryl Harris, a registered dietician and nutritionist in Alexandria, Va. can attest to the importance of a true diagnosis.

"I was one of the many people who went off gluten for a long time," said Harris, who has been gluten-free for five years. "I tried a gluten-free diet and it was kind of like flicking a switch, I was human again. Now, I can't go back, I'm a presumptive celiac but not technically diagnosed."

Harris, who got her degree less than ten years ago, said she has seen a drastic increase in awareness in the medical community during her time practicing.

"When I was being trained as a nutritionist, I was told one in 10,000 have celiac and that I would not have to deal with the disease, sort of like 'maybe you'll see a unicorn, maybe you'll see a person with celiac.'"

If future studies prove to verify the Mayo Clinic's findings, the medical community and food industry will have a lot of catching up to do.

The author of this article was diagnosed with celiac disease in 2004.

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