Sunday, June 03, 2007


The current issue of People--dated June 11, 2007, it asks "What Happened to Lindsay Lohan?" on the cover--includes a two-page article devoted to celiac disease. The issue is unlikely to appear on the magazine's website, but it should be readily available at newsstands, libraries, and waiting rooms. More on the waiting rooms later.

Sharon Cotliar's article "No Wheat, No Worries" combines facts about celiac disease with short profiles of two California moms with kids diagnosed with the condition. The medical experts quoted in the article are New York's own Dr. Peter Green, director of the Celiac Disease Center at Columbia University and co-author of Celiac Disease: A Hidden Epidemic, and Atlanta's Dr. Cynthia Rudert, medical advisor for the Celiac Disease Foundation. The two moms are Sarah Givens and Danna Korn. Danna, the founder of Raising Our Celiac Kids (ROCK), is also author of Kids With Celiac Disease, Wheat-Free, Worry-Free, and Living Gluten-Free For Dummies.

The article defines celiac disease as "an autoimmune ailment, triggered by gluten, that damages the lining of the small intestine." Opening with a classic-sounding case of celiac disease in a three-year-old whose symptoms included severe anemia and belly distension, it covers the challenge of switching to a gluten-free medical diet as well as recent improvements in labeling and product availability that make the adjustment easier.

From a medical perspective, the article states that celiac disease "may affect as many as 1 percent of Americans...although many may be misdiagnosed and some suffer from only minor symptoms." It refers to Dr. Green (pictured) as saying that the time between onset and accurate diagnosis averages 11 years. It also mentions that women are twice as likely to have celiac disease and lists some of the manifestations: fatigue, anemia, infertility, osteoporosis, some cancers, vitamin deficiencies, abdominal bloating and pain, both diarrhea and constipation, and even irritability.

The story also includes a photo of Danna and her family with a toaster (marked GLUTEN-FREE...Good for me!), another shot of Danna with Sarah Givens and her daughter, and a funny sidebar image showing gluten-containing foods marked with yellow CAUTION tape.

The article ends with Dr. Rudert advising people who suspect that they have celiac disease to get a complete blood tests, and notes that diagnosis is confirmed with biopsies of the small intestine. It refers readers seeking more information to the National Institute of Health and Danna Korn's Gluten Freedom.

So what's to be done now that People has covered celiac disease? Michael Thorn of Suffolk County Celiacs suggests emailing the magazine "to thank them for the article, share a brief personal story and/or encourage them to cover adults with CD. Praise them for covering this very common disease and ask they they do more."

And here's something else you can do: When you're in a doctor's waiting room, look for the copy of People and leave it open to page 143, where the article starts. Better yet, find out if the article can be kept in the waiting room and otherwise made available for other patients to read.

Dr. Green has talked about raising awareness of celiac disease in doctor's offices. This People article could be very useful in achieving that goal.

PS The April 9, 2007, People briefly referred to celiac disease in an item on Elisabeth Hasselbeck.

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