When Rory Teitelbaum’s daughter, Emma, was born, she had no idea what was causing her child’s vomiting, diarrhea, and weight loss. Most of her doctors didn’t know, either. It took almost 26 months and a near-death visit to the emergency room before Teitelbaum, 38, heard the right diagnosis: celiac disease. Her baby daughter had an autoimmune disorder that causes the body to attack the intestines in response to any foods that contain gluten—a protein found in wheat and many grains and other, less-expected things like lipstick.
GENETIC FACTORS. Soon after, Teitelbaum’s husband was diagnosed with the same disease, which is often genetic. But it took another three years before an endoscopy revealed that Teitelbaum herself also had celiac. “It explained a lot of things: my migraines, bloating, and fertility issues.”
MISSED DIAGNOSES. Like Teitelbaum, millions of people suffer from celiac (or gluten intolerance, which is not an autoimmune disorder but has the same symptoms) without knowing the cause. “Doctors are taught that celiac is rare. But the symptoms—bloating, gas, and indigestion—are so common that physicians often overlook the condition,” notes Peter Green, M.D., director of the Celiac Disease Center at Columbia University Medical Center in New York. In fact, approximately one in every 133 individuals, or roughly two million people in the U.S., have celiac, but only one out of five is actually aware he or she has the disease.
DIET OVERHAUL. Eliminating gluten from your diet alleviates the symptoms of celiac disease or gluten intolerance (and allows your intestines to heal), but it means more than just avoiding the bakery section at your grocery store. Gluten is in everything from soy sauce and soup (which can be made with a fl our-based roux) to sausages (some casings contain flour). You have to read labels to see if wheat is on the ingredient list, or if the food has been stamped “gluten free.”
WORTHWHILE REWARDS. The change of lifestyle requires discipline, but it pays off. Since their diagnoses, the entire Teitelbaum family has seen their intestinal pain and headaches decrease signifi cantly. “With so many gluten-free breads, cakes, and snacks out there now, we don’t feel like we’re missing out,” says Teitelbaum. “It’s not worth it to eat any other way since just a few bites of something with gluten makes us very sick.”
HELP: Follow these five steps and your digestive problems will be a thing of the past.