Wheat disease on the rise

Feb 082005
Authors: Hallie Woods

A rare disease of the small intestine called Celiac Disease has been found recently by doctors to be on the rise. Although the disease was only named in the last several decades, research has found that the disorder affects 1 out of every 133 people.

"In the '60s my grandfather died of Celiac Disease, but Celiac Disease wasn't diagnosed. His death certificate listed the disorder as malabsorption," said Virgina Ludwig, a support contact for the Pikes Peak Chapter of the Celiac Sprue Association and a Celiac victim.

Celiac Disease, also called Sprue, is a genetic disorder that causes an autoimmune response on the villi of the small intestine when gluten is present in the body, according to the Celiac Sprue Association's Web site www.csaceliacs.org.

Gluten is commonly found in wheat, barley and rye limiting the diet of those with the disease. The disease can be onset at any age and is found in both genders, although women are more commonly diagnosed.

The symptoms can range greatly in their severity from weight loss, appetite change, muscle cramping, diarrhea, dry skin, abdominal pain, and fatigue, to depression, early osteoporosis, anemia, vitamin deficiencies and edema. Once a patient is diagnosed through blood tests and an intestinal biopsy, the victim must completely eliminate gluten from their diet to prevent further complications.

Recent studies have shown the disorder to be linked to a group of genes on Chromosome 6, according the www.celiac.org. The disease is inherited and family members often will be tested regardless if symptoms are present. Since Celiac inhibits the diet of all who deal with it, cooking and dining out can be a difficult experience.

"If I go to a restaurant I know I'll be eating gluten, so if there's not a gluten-free menu, I just eat a salad," said Emilie Short, freshman art major, who doesn't have Celiac, but instead, a gluten allergy. "It's especially hard to cut wheat out completely while living in the dorms."

However, because of the commonness of the disorder, many restaurants are beginning to offer a gluten-free menu.

"It used to be a disaster, but it's getting better. Now many restaurants have gluten-free menus such as P.F. Changs and Outback Steakhouse," Ludwig said.

For victims of Celiac, coping with the disease can be difficult. However, there are many organizations that offer support and resources for those with the disease. Raising Our Celiac Kids (ROCK) is an organization based out of Denver helping parents whose children have been diagnosed.

"ROCK helps parents with kids who have Celiacs and teaches them how to adjust to keep their kids out of harms way," Ludwig said.

Other organizations such as Celiac Sprue Association USA based out of Omaha, extend nationally supplying recipes, newsletters, contacts, forums and meeting. Several chapters are localized to each individual city with a Northern Colorado Chapter for those dealing with Celiacs in Fort Collins.

Some businesses thrive completely based off of customers with Celiac Disease. Out of the Breadbox in Colorado Springs is an entirely gluten-free bakery and was founded when the owners discovered their daughter had Celiac Disease. Other businesses such as Wild Oats or Whole Foods accommodate those with food allergies by providing certain products for each allergen.

"My friends and I really rely on Wild Oats to purchase food that is healthy and caters to food allergies," said Colleen Talbot, junior human development and family studies major.

Wild Oats offers many gluten-free items that can substitute other foods that may have been cut out of the Celiac diet.

Although Celiac Disease can be upsetting and requires more work and consideration, the disorder doesn't stop its victims from thriving on a normal day-to-day basis.

"I'm not going to live in a bubble," Ludwig said. "I think people should live their life.

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