Thursday, November 09, 2006


Whatever I learn at the celiac disease symposium I want to share with you, my dear reader. So here's the very first thing I learned after arriving at the Hilton this afternoon: Arrive early for lunch!

You see, by the time I got there, greeted a friend from the Westchester Support Group, and registered...the gluten-free box lunches were gone--all gone! D'oh!

Memo to the organizers: You really don't want to run out of food at a multi-day conference for people on medical diets. It's a good thing I've been to enough celiac events to know to head straight for the exhibition room, where I was able to subsist on food samples until I finally feasted at tonight's delicious buffet at the Museum of Natural History. To my regret, I missed out on the pumpkin soup, but I think I sampled everything else. I especially liked the potato-crusted chicken croquettes and the berry-and-cream dessert.

Earlier in the day, there was much food for thought. Here are some general impressions: The world of celiac has changed dramatically (for the better, it seems) over the past twenty years and especially over the past five years. The testing methods improved, more people seem to have gotten correct diagnoses, and the quality of life for the gluten-free seems to have improved, too. At the same time, what we understand as celiac disease seems more and more multi-faceted--especially when one considers international perspectives on the condition.

One intriguing presentation came from Swedish doctor Anneli Ivarsson, who traced the dramatic upsurge in infant celiac disease in Sweden from around 1988 through 1994. (I'm summarizing from my own notes, so feel free to correct me if I've gotten this wrong.) Medical authorities took on the problem and decided to fight it by encouraging parents to continue breast-feeding while gradually introducing gluten into infant diets. After the implementation of this strategy, the number of celiac diagnoses among infants subsided to previous levels. This strongly suggests that breastfeeding, when combined with slow introduction of gluten, can prevent or delay celiac (follow-up studies are ongoing)--but that there is still a baseline population that seems to be unaffected by that particular strategy. One approach worked for some but not all of those Swedish celiac kiddies--you know?

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