Celiac Disease & Diabetes - Why YOU Should Be TESTED

Ginger Vieira Health Guide
  • Hi - I'm Ginger...I usually write over at HealthCentral's site for teens with Diabetes.


    I've had Type 1 diabetes for 10 years, and Celiac disease for 9 years. I am a personal trainer, yoga instructor, writer and soon-to-be competitive powerlifter.

    If you have diabetes, you should be tested for celiac disease. Period.


    What is celiac disease? Celiac disease is an intolerance to gluten- the protein found in flour, rye, and barley- and has shown to be prevalent in 5 to 10 percent of people with Type 1 diabetes (I have found both percentages in many studies, the highest estimate at 10 percent).

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    Celiac is NOT the same as an allergy to gluten.


    An intolerance to gluten is a reaction from the small intestines not being able to process and digest the protein properly. Eating gluten with celiac can severely irritate and damage the small intestine, cause an inability to absorb nutrients, prevent growth in children, cause headaches, stomach pains, cramps, weight gain, weight loss, etc.


    Why are diabetics more likely to develop celiac?

    Both disease are auto-immune disease. Celiac is common among several other diseases in which the body is attacking healthy cells (thyroid disease, rheumatoid arthritis, liver disease, Addison's disease). And it is thought to be genetic. It is not caused by eating too much gluten.


    The only reason I found out I had celiac was because my doctor included this blood test among several other routine blood tests throughout the year for all of her diabetic patients. I only had diabetes for a year at the time, a year later, I was diagnosed with celiac.


    Most likely, I had only recently developed the disease because my symptoms were non-existent. Because I found out so quickly, there was very little damage done to my small intestines which could be why I still to this day do not experience symptoms when I eat gluten.


    Many people do not show symptoms when they eat gluten, but the damage is still happening to the small intestines, and gluten in the diet will increase a risk of cancer in the small intestines despite the sign of any symptoms.

    Living with Celiac & Type 1?

    There are worse things. While Type 1 is a lot of maintence, celiac for me just gets in the way of social things and convenience. It is simply inconvenient. Nowadays, there are soooo many great gluten-free alternatives at grocery stores and restaurants because the disease has become so prevalent, but trying to find quickly accessible gluten-free options can just be annoying.


    You CAN make and find great gluten free breads and brownies, but are the Price Chopper bagged breads any good? No, not really. The best breads are the homemade ones I've found in a local health food store. Expensive and doesn't stay fresh for long!


    If you don't love to bake and cook (like me), then it'll be more tedious. If you are anything like my mother, who loved to experiment with different flours (soy, garbonzo, rice, potato) in order to re-create the consistency of white flour to make cookies that don't dry up ten minutes out of the oven, then you'll enjoy the challenge of baking for a celiac.


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    There are tons and tons of great celiac disease cookbooks. And websites of products.  And a few magazines, too!


    Some people are severely sensitive, and need to have their own toaster oven, for example, because simply sharing utensils with a gluten-eater can cause their own symptoms to flare up.


    I've found that gluten-free waffles make better sandwich material than real gluten-free bread...which always turns out to be too dense and dry.


    I remember my biggest disappointment after diagnosis was realizing I could no longer eat real spaghetti with my Italian family anymore.


    As with the other challenges we face, life goes on. We adapt and do what we need to in order to enjoy life and pursue the things in life we love. I can do without bagels and spaghetti, if it means I'll be healthy enough to teach yoga for another few decades.


    Bottom line: get your blood tested!



Published On: April 14, 2009