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Celiac Disease

Celiac Diagnosis Changes Boy’s Life

Her family doctor at the time actually attributed her symptoms to stress – and recommended that Bob, a senior vice president at Citigroup Global Markets, take his wife out to dinner more often. When specialists finally found out she had celiac disease, Lisa read as much about it as she could.

She learned that her immune system saw gluten, a protein in wheat, barley and rye, as an intruder, and was responding by damaging tiny, finger-like projections in her small intestine that allow nutrients to be absorbed.

She became aware that the disease can lead to malnourishment, anemia and a host of problems, including osteoporosis, infertility and depression.

Once on a gluten-free diet, Lisa regained the energy to be a wife and mom – the unflappable centre of an unruly, fun brood in the hamlet of Chappaqua, north of New York City.

Could her youngest child, who spat out food and broke bones like they were matchsticks, have the same disease?

But the pediatrician was adamant, broken bones and all. The boy’s mother was told: Eamon could not have celiac disease because if he did, he would have symptoms like a constantly bloated abdomen and diarrhea, and would be crying all the time.

Two years later, in 2000, Lisa Murphy’s world would be rocked when she attended a talk by Dr. Peter Green, the founder of the Celiac Disease Center at Columbia University. The affable physician launched into a speech about how the disease can present itself in a myriad of ways, from bloating to seizures and anti-social behavior, and he noted the condition was hereditary.

He urged those diagnosed with celiac to get their family members tested. A light went off for Lisa. She called Bob and the couple agreed they should get their kids screened immediately.

Her eldest, Colin Murphy, who was then 11, turned out to be positive and already had developed osteoporosis in his spine and forearm.

And Eamon, whose fugues had so alarmed his family, was positive, too. At once angry over the misdiagnosis and hopeful, Lisa thought, “Maybe now, we’ve found the answer.”

About one per cent of the population in North America has celiac disease – a statistic that has already increased fourfold in the past 50 years and is only getting larger. Green says no one knows why.

Maybe it’s because gluten is present in so many more products, including lip balm and vitamins, or perhaps gluten itself has become more toxic, or there may be other environmental or dietary factors.

Next Page: Confusion Over Symptoms

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