Sunday, September 09, 2007


Now online: "Waiter, Please Hold the Wheat," a well-researched Newsweek article [September 17, 2007] about celiac sprue.

Written by Anne Underwood, the piece begins with the story of Alice Bast, founder of the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness (NFCA). She suffered fatigue, migraines, depression, weight loss, hair loss, dental problems, GI symptoms, and tingling in the extremities as well as a traumatic failed pregnancy before she received her accurate celiac diagnosis—after seeing nearly two dozen doctors.

The article refers to Dr. Alessio Fasano's 2003 estimate that about 3 million Americans (1 in 133) have celiac sprue, but notes that the condition "remains vastly underdiagnosed." It mentions that symptoms (such as anemia, osteoporosis and failure to thrive in young children) can go well beyond the digestive tract, and offers an explanation as to why Dr. Peter Green (pictured) would say, "Name the organ, and celiac disease can affect it." Underwood writes that, in response to gluten, the immune system in an affected individual "generates antibodies to an enzyme called tissue transglutaminase. This enzyme is an innocent bystander that acts on gluten in the lining of the intestine. But because the enzyme is also found throughout the body—in the skin, heart, thyroid, bones and nervous system—antibodies that attack it can direct their fire at any of these other organs, too."

Underwood emphasizes that the longer someone with celiac sprue remains untreated, the more problems are likely to develop, and also makes the point that, among autoimmune conditions, celiac sprue is one of the easiest to treat, as it involves maintaining a diet instead of undergoing surgery or treatments. (See this post for information about people who were diagnosed with celiac sprue and then mistakenly told they could safely eat gluten.)

The article also asserts that maintaining the diet is easier than ever due to the creation of new products and the rising number of restaurants offering special, gluten-free menus. Mentioned are the Outback and Carrabba's chains, with Risotteria scoring a photograph and Bistango depicted as the site of a lunch between Heidi Collins (pictured) and Celiac Chick Kelly Courson. Each restaurant is part of the nationwide Gluten-Free Restaurant Awareness Program (GFRAP), which, I'm sorry to note, is not recognized in the article.

The article ends with a mention of honeymooning blogger Shauna James Ahern and a description of her forthcoming book Gluten-Free Girl as "a delightful memoir of learning to eat superbly while remaining gluten-free." According to Amazon, the book will be out on October 5, 2007.

ADDENDUM People seeking more information about celiac sprue may find the following links useful:
Celiac Disease Foundation
Gluten Intolerance Group
The Mayo Clinic
Celiac Disease Center at Columbia University
Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center Celiac Center
University of Chicago Medical Center Celiac Disease Center
University of Maryland Center for Celiac Research
NIH Celiac Disease Awareness Campaign

Newsweek cover image: PRNewsFoto/NEWSWEEK

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