Tag Archives: Celiac Disease

Did JFK Have Celiac?


Via Irish Central, an article that talks about what we’ve suspected for years. That President John F. Kennedy most likely had undiagnosed Celiac disease.

Green wrote, “John F. Kennedy’s long-standing medical problems started in childhood. In Kennedy’s adolescence, gastrointestinal symptoms, weight and growth problems as well as fatigue were described. Later in life, he suffered from abdominal pain, diarrhea, weight loss, osteoporosis, migraine and Addison’s disease. Chronic back problems, due to osteoporosis, resulted in several operations and required medications for chronic pain.

Green says that by the standards of the time Kennedy was extensively assessed. ”He was extensively evaluated in major medical centers including the Mayo Clinic and hospitals in Boston, New Haven and New York. Among the multiple diagnoses were ulcers, colitis, spastic colitis, irritable bowel syndrome, and food allergies. His medications included corticosteroids, antispasmotics, Metamucil and Lomotil.


While there are many medical records on JFK’s many health ailments, he was never put on a strict food elimination diet, something that might have shown that he suffered from a food-related illness.

It’s very interesting to consider the President of the United States having an undiagnosed health condition, considering he received the best medical care in the world at the time. But it shows the relative ignorance toward Celiac disease at the time.

For Many of Us, It’s Not a Fad

I found this article to ring true for a lot of us with Celiac Disease or a true medical condition that prevents us from eating gluten.

Via Weekly Herald:

Gluten-free not fun for all

GOOD HEALTH | By Katie Murdoch, Herald writer
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Although going gluten-free has become the latest diet trend, it’s a way of life for people with Celiac disease.

Celiac disease has been documented in the medical literature for more than 100 years, but until 10 years ago most doctors knew very little about it, said Nick Rose, nutrition educator for PCC Natural Markets.

Gluten, a protein found in wheat, barley and rye, damages the lining of the small intestines in people with Celiac disease, gluten intolerance or allergies. This can cause constipation, severe abdominal pain and nausea.

Experts recommend omitting gluten for three primary reasons: treating patients with Celiac disease; helping people with gluten intolerance and allergies; and as a way to rule out possible food intolerances.

Those with gluten intolerance will see reduced symptoms of bloating and headaches, but the diet won’t necessarily benefit everyone, Rose said.

Health concerns, specific symptoms and supporting a family member have led to the diet gaining more attention, he said.

That attention wasn’t always beneficial, said Amber Wester, co-owner of SmartEats, a Mill Creek specialty store stocked with gluten-free products.

Misdiagnoses led to over diagnoses, the media hyped it and then celebrities got involved, leading to gluten-free’s fad status, she said.

“It distracts from the people who have health issues,” Wester said.

At PCC, gluten-free products are included in an online data base of foods in the store and marks gluten-free products with eye-catching orange tags.

Rose recommends people on a gluten-free diet read food labels carefully, as there is no uniform standard used when labeling food as gluten-free. There is also concern about cross-contamination in the oven, toaster and cutting board.

“Celiacs pay dearly if they fall off the wagon,” he said.

Recipe books are hitting bookstores to help people find tasty alternatives and still consume nutrients.

Nutritionist Janine Whiteson was contributing editor to “The Cooking Light Gluten-Free Cookbook,” which hit shelves this month. The book was in response to letters from readers asking for help, Whiteson said.

The recipe book offers education about vitamins and nutrient sources and portion sizes and warns about hidden sources of gluten, including bleu cheese, cough syrups and salad dressings.

“We’re taking the fad out of it,” Whiteson said. “This is a healthy, safe way.”

Unnoticed Celiac Disease Worth Treating

People with antibodies but no symptoms are better off avoiding gluten

via Science News:

CHICAGO — Patients who have a silent form of celiac disease can reverse intestinal damage and feel better overall by taking a preemptive approach, researchers in Finland have found. People diagnosed with the digestive ailment through a blood test benefitted from avoiding grains containing gluten, suggesting this approach could benefit thousands of undiagnosed celiac patients, the scientists reported May 8 at Digestive Disease Week, a scientific meeting.

Celiac disease is a lifelong inherited disorder in which the body’s immune system makes antibodies that react to gluten protein in wheat, rye and barley. Three molecular fragments in gluten have been identified as suspected antibody targets (SN: 8/14/10, p. 8). The small intestine suffers from this misguided attack, and celiac patients can experience bloating, diarrhea, constipation, lethargy and poor nutrition as they lose some ability to absorb nutrients through the damaged walls of the small intestine.

But many people don’t have such clear symptoms, said gastroenterologist Katri Kaukinen of the University of Tampere. Even undetected the disease can have health effects: It has been linked to poor educational achievement and failure to thrive in children, apparently due to nutrient loss. In adulthood, undetected celiac disease is associated with a risk of fractures, poor dental enamel, short stature, pregnancy difficulties and skin problems.

Kaukinen and her colleagues tested 3,031 people who appeared healthy but had a family member with celiac disease, also called sprue. Forty of these people carried antibodies against gluten protein.

The scientists randomly assigned half the carriers to go on a gluten-free diet while the others ate what they wanted. After a year, the gluten-free group had signs of better digestion — substantially improved gastrointestinal function and  better vitamin levels — and higher quality of life as revealed by a questionnaire of general well-being. Those on a regular diet showed no change.

Biopsies taken at the beginning of the study in the 40 people with silent celiac disease showed damage from intestinal inflammation, Kaukinen said. Biopsies done 12 months later showed a substantial improvement in the people on a gluten-free diet, whereas the regular-diet group remained the same or worsened.

It’s not clear why some people with celiac disease have mild symptoms and others have severe disease. “Some people may adapt to minor symptoms and realize only after treatment that they had had symptoms,” Kaukinen said.

Gastroenterologist Joseph Murray of the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., adds that the novelty of the new study is “the randomization, and that you get benefits” from a gluten-free approach. He says this and other research suggests strongly that family members of celiac patients should be tested for it, as well as anyone with anemia, gastric distress or nonspecific ailments such as chronic fatigue that might stem from undetected nutrient loss.

While the prevalence of celiac disease in the overall Western population is about 1 or 2 percent, it’s closer to 10 percent among those with a close relative who has celiac, Kaukinen said.

A Good Summation

A nicely informative article from the Daily Astorian via the Eastern Oregonian.


East Oregonian Publishing Group

“Gluten-free” foods are available in supermarkets more than ever before, thanks to increasing awareness of celiac disease.

In the United States, about one out of every 130 people has celiac disease – an autoimmune disorder triggered by the consumption of gluten.

Gluten is the protein part of wheat, rye, barley and triticale. When someone with celiac disease eats anything containing gluten, the immune system reacts abnormally because it identifies gluten as a foreign substance. This reaction causes inflammation and damage to the small intestine, and interferes with the absorption of nutrients.

Celiac disease is not an allergy to gluten – people can grow out of allergies. Rather, it’s an autoimmune disease that you can’t grow out of. It can appear at any time in a person’s life, and may be triggered by surgery, a viral infection, severe emotional stress, pregnancy or childbirth.

For many people with celiac disease, the time between the onset of the symptoms and diagnosis may be long. Celiac disease is commonly misdiagnosed as irritable bowel syndrome, gastric ulcer, Crohn’s disease or a parasite infection.

Typical symptoms of celiac disease include ongoing diarrhea or constipation or both, bloating and abdominal discomfort. Celiac disease should be suspected in children with stunted growth, pale appearance, irritability, potbelly, flat buttocks and/or foul-smelling stools.

Other symptoms of celiac disease include iron deficiency anemia, irritability, depression, fatigue, weight loss, canker sores in the mouth, joint pain, muscle cramps, and tingling in the hands and feet. Many of these problems result from vitamin and mineral deficiencies, because nutrients are not well-absorbed in the small intestine.

Some people with celiac disease have a blistering, intensely itchy skin rash – most often seen on the elbows, knees and buttocks – called dermatitis herpetiformis. This rash, with small clusters of red bumps, may or may not be associated with intestinal symptoms, but the treatment is the same.

The risk factors for celiac disease include a family history of celiac disease, autoimmune diseases such as diabetes and thyroiditis, and some genetic problems such as Downs syndrome and Turner syndrome.

To diagnose celiac disease, the first step is a blood test, looking for specific antibodies. If the antibody tests are positive, the next step is an endoscopic small bowel biopsy to confirm the diagnosis and assess the damage in the lining of the small intestine.

Once the diagnosis of celiac disease is made, the treatment is straightforward: complete exclusion of gluten from the diet. People living with celiac disease must completely avoid wheat – including farina, graham flour, durum, semolina, einkorn, Kamut, spelt, matzo meal and farro – rye and barley. There are no medications for celiac disease.

Once people with newly-diagnosed celiac disease start a gluten-free diet, they start feeling better within days.

Although the treatment is straightforward, it is not easy to stick to a gluten-free diet. Gluten is used as a protein filler in products such as sausage, soup, gravy, soy sauce and ice cream. Pizza, croutons, crackers, pasta, bread, most cereal, cookies, cakes and pies are all off-limits. Gluten is also used as a binder in some pharmaceutical products.

It’s not a matter of just decreasing the amount of gluten in the diet – it must be completely eliminated. Even trace amounts of gluten can cause intestinal damage in people with celiac disease.

Possible long-term complications of celiac disease include infertility, increased risk of miscarriage, osteoporosis, intestinal lymphoma and bowel cancer.

Some with celiac disease also become lactose intolerant, meaning they can’t digest the milk sugar found in dairy products.

Amaranth, buckwheat and quinoa are gluten-free grains, but they can be contaminated with gluten-containing grains during harvesting and processing. Flours made from rice, soy, potato and corn are gluten-free. Oats are gluten-free, but there is some controversy about whether or not they are safe. Oats are likely to be contaminated with wheat, and some people with celiac disease and dermatitis herpetiformis also react to a substance in oats. Be sure to look for “gluten free” labels.

People living with celiac disease must learn to read food labels to look for gluten-containing ingredients.

It’s a challenge to stick to a gluten-free diet when eating out. Try to find restaurants that understand your need to avoid gluten, get to know the staff and patronize them often.

If you have celiac disease, reach out and connect with others in your area and talk to grocery stores and restaurant owners about the importance of having gluten-free options available.

Kathryn B. Brown worked as a registered nurse and a nurse practitioner before going to work for the East Oregonian. She can be reached at kbbrown@eastoregonian.com.