Friday, January 26, 2007


Update: Click here for GFNYC Hasselbeck coverage

Yesterday there was some question as to when The View would cover celiac disease in more depth. The question was answered on today's pre-taped episode, when Elisabeth Hasselbeck spent about three minutes discussing her condition with her co-hosts during the "Hot Topics" portion of the show. [Update: You can view the segment here, though you might need to download a plugin to access it.]

The much-anticipated segment began when Barbara Walters switched the Hot Topic from Angelina Jolie to Hasselbeck's health. Walters, who seemed to have trouble remembering the name of her co-host's condition ("What do you call it?"), mentioned that people had been writing in about it.

Then Rosie O'Donnell chimed in, saying "Explain to people what this is, because a lot of people have said to me, 'Elisabeth never eats the food. What does she have--an eating disorder?' I said, 'I've seen her eat. She just has this thing.' Tell the thing."

So Hasselbeck told the thing--"It's called 'celiac disease'"--and went on to give an informal description of it as an autoimmune disorder in which the body has an intolerance of gluten found in wheat, barley, rye, and some oats. She noted that the damage caused by the reaction to the food puts one at high risk of diabetes, infertility, stomach cancers, and thyroid disease.

As the conversation opened up, Walters pointed out that people very often have celiac disease without realizing it. Hasselbeck agreed, saying that 3 million people in the United States alone have it but only 3 percent of them know it. She also noted that sometimes it's misdiagnosed (say, as Irritable Bowel Syndrome or colitis), resulting in patients getting ineffective treatments.

Hasselbeck, who first came to national attention as a fourth-place finisher on Survivor: The Australian Outback, spoke about how she herself had been miserable for about four years ("nothing was helping me") but then took note of how much better she felt on Survivor's extremely restricted diet. "I went to Australia on Survivor and everyone else there was complaining they felt awful. I felt great. It was the first time....

"All we were eating were fish that we caught...and rice...and I thought, 'Why am I feeling great here? I'm either allergic to the United States or it's something that I'm eating.'"

Then Walters brought up the hereditary aspect of celiac disease. Hasselbeck said that she was going to check her own child for the condition at about two years.

Hasselbeck added that one could could have malnutrition and bone loss as a side effect of undiagnosed celiac disease, "but if you know about it, it's awesome. There are tons of products out there, and for the first time I can drink beer! Today!! Because I have not had a beer...."

And that's when Hasselbeck and O'Donnell pulled out bottles of Redbridge and drank it as the crowd cheered along. O'Donnell: "Let me just say: I consider myself a little bit of a beer expert...and this gluten-free beer is fantastic!" And that, more or less, brought the segment to a spirited conclusion.

It was good to hear Hasselbeck tell her story while making important points about celiac disease on a show with The View's large audience. I hope the attention will result in more of the undiagnosed and misdiagnosed getting correct diagnoses--and feeling "awesome" as a result. They should know, however, that self-diagnosis through dieting or genetic testing is not definitive. If you have a negative genetic test for celiac disease, you are unlikely to have it, but if you have a positive genetic test you might or might not have it. The classic diagnostic routine for celiac disease is to undergo a set of simple blood tests while still on a diet including gluten. Based on the results of the blood tests (which measure one's reaction to dietary gluten), a physician will decide whether to go ahead with an upper endoscopy. (For more about testing, click here.)

It was good that Walters brought up family testing because it can be helpful in identifying the many cases that have gone undiagnosed or misdiagnosed. First-degree relatives of people with celiac disease should be tested and monitored for the condition even if they don't show symptoms or test positive, as the condition can develop at a later date or seem to go away for a time.

In fact, something that might've been helpful for The View's audience to hear is that, years ago, many doctors would mistakenly claim that children diagnosed as celiac had been cured when they were actually experiencing a remission of noticeable symptoms. So people told that they'd permanently recovered from celiac disease (and could go back to eating wheat, barley, etc.) should see informed doctors in order to be checked again for the condition.

Finally, a note about gluten-free beer: As readers of this blog are well aware, Hasselbeck could have had her first gluten-free beer much sooner than this week. Ramapo Valley Brewery's Passover Honey Lager, Bard's Tale Beer's Dragon's Gold, and Lakefront Brewery's New Grist all preceded Anheuser-Busch's Redbridge. Bottles of imported Toleration can also be had in New York City. And other gluten-free beers are available beyond the borders of the United States.

IRONY ALERT Later on the show, cake decorator Duff Goldman of Food Network's The Ace of Cakes presented a cake in the form of a full Winter '07 View mug--but there was no word as to whether it was safe for Hasselbeck. Maybe The View can invite the guys from Mr. Ritt's to the show for Hasselbeck's birthday (May 28).

Top photo: David Marc Fischer


Mike Eberhart said...

I didn't see the episode, but it is always nice to see Celiac in the news. I had no idea Hasselbeck had the issue. I like it when famous people come out and talk about it, especially because it draws the average person's attention to a condition they might otherwise be unaware of. A global awareness of the condition will certainly benefit all of us.

Virginia Schmuck said...

A celiac for 32 years I am very sorry I was not able to see this, but I'm thrilled with what was presented. The disease was very accurately presented, and Barbara Walters was very well informed. Thank you for publicly discussing this "hidden" disease. And to you, Barbara Hasselback, I offer understanding and congratulations on controlling your disease. As you obviously know, the most important aspect of care is ABSOLUTE avoidance of gluten. And incidentally, I like Redbridge Beer also.

Donna Evans said...

It's great to see this program talked about Celiac Disease. Wish more news and talk shows would talk more about this disease.
I was diagnosed to having Dermatitis Herpetiformis back in 2001, which is related with Celiac Disease, nothing to do with Herpes at all. DH pertains to Wheat/gluten, as well as barley, oats, rye. At that time, there wasn't much choices of where to get gluten free foods, and I didn't realize that gluten in not only in foods, it's in shampoos, make up, soaps, and a lot of things. Since then, more places are selling GF foods. We have a great resource here in central Missouri, HyVees has a health food department, and wow what a selection of GF foods I am able to get now, such as GF wafles, GF cereals, GF muffins, GF flours, etc... Now my husband and I make a monthly visit to that grocery store.
I feel, the more that is aware of Celiac Disease as well as Dermatitis Herpetiformis, the better.
Thank you all for having a section of your talk show about CD. In Regards, Donna Evans of Missouri

Angel said...

I knew she had it from reading threads at I was very pleased she brought it "out." She did a great job discussing the main points, but I was confused about:

1) why "wheat" was mentioned so low and inaudibly and secondarily to BARLEY (by Rosie also)... and,

2) why she hadn't had the other gf beers being in the largest and probably well-stocked gf city in the world!

I would love for her to discuss it at more length with Dr. Peter Green, author of Celiac Disease: The Hidden Epidemic, like Dr. Oz did on Oprah's XM 156 radio station program. I missed the first 20 minutes of that program, but the last 40 were awesome!

P.S. I think this is something for Rosie to look into also (based on her medical conditions described on the show)!

Anonymous said...

I just saw a clip of The View and felt it was an excellent presentation. I appreciate the information presented on this Blog; it was well written and very complete. Thanks David for going to so much work to write it out for us. Genevieve