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Celiac Disease

When Celiac is Silent

A celiac diagnosis, of course, means the start of a gluten-free diet and that spells relief – at least to those who feel the symptoms. Maintaining the diet requires strict vigilance: reading every food package label and daily avoidance of cross-contamination with the myriad gluten-containing foods. That’s tough enough for those who will get cramping, bloating, diarrhea or migraines or other symptoms from gluten. Consider how difficult it is for those who feel no ill effects from gluten-containing foods.

“You try telling people who are asymptomatic to stop going out for beer and pizza, especially teenagers!” says Dr. Alaa Rostom, deputy chair of gastroenterology at the University of Calgary. Celiac’s symptoms are lousy, but getting them does  compel you to comply.

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Back in Ardmore, Marisa Fraimow had her biopsy the day before high school graduation in June, 2011. She was fortunate to get it done quickly, especially since she felt like her life was on hold until she could work toward becoming as healthy as possible. “I didn’t know enough about celiac disease to recognize mild symptoms, but I do know that less than a month later, I felt more energized,” she says.

Although nobody else in her family has tested positive for the antibodies associated with celiac, her home is now almost completely gluten-free. In the summer, she and her mom met with Penn State’s food services coordinator to ensure that food-service staff are well-trained in the special dietary needs of students and separately store both dry and frozen goods. Even her mom came away assured.

Now in the school’s liberal arts program, with a special interest in communications and economics, Marisa wants to work towards a greater understanding of her condition among her peers and maybe even make a career of it in the future. For a dessert lover, life is still sweet – even sweeter because it takes a special effort to have that dark chocolate apple cake and eat it, too. Marisa isn’t one to wallow in “Why me?” She says: “I think, ‘How can I live better?’”

Next: Anemia Was Her Only Clue

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