Suddenly Celiac

Back in 2003, when I was diagnosed, nobody seemed to know anything much about the connection between Type 1 diabetes and celiac disease. Or at least it wasn’t mainstream, certainly not for my doctors at the time. Celiac is of course and intolerance to gluten, a composite of proteins contained in wheat, rye and barley. Having it therefore means eating no foods that contain those grains. Picture that!

Wheatfree_zoneBut my point was that suddenly, I seem to see the topic of diabetes & celiac popping up all over. I was amazed to find an article in this month’s edition of Diabetes Forecast, called “A Tricky Diagnosis: Why You Should Learn About Celiac Disease” that explains the classic and atypical versions of this disorder:

* Classic = nasty gastrointestinal (GI) problems when you eat gluten

* Atypical = mild or no GI symptoms, but a skin rash (dermatitis herpatiformis – yikes) that can appear on your face, elbows, knees or tush

The article notes that the latter may in fact be the more common presentation. And they cleverly note: “Because grains find their way into all kinds of products, always read labels on foods, over-the-counter medicines, and supplements. Ask your doctor about the ingredients in prescribed medicines.”

Well yes, I had to learn all of this the hard way. Like when we stopped at the drug store for some allergy pills, and later my lip swelled up like a ubangi. That was a nice look at Disneyland, I’ll tell you.

If you are in this boat, see this nice new Boston Globe piece about how to find gluten-free products. If you’re in Europe, it might cheer you to know that a new 2,230-meter factory has just been opened in Wales to pump out gluten-free goods. In Seattle, “Gluten-Free Girl” Shauna James is doing great things with rice and corn pastas. Personally, I prefer Quinoa. It’s not so heavy and dry. But if you happen to have diabetes as well as celiac, you will REALLY want to watch the pasta, anyway; it’s carb-noxious.

Here’s a list of research on the connection between celiac and diabetes, including one study indicating that the disorder was discovered in 12.3% of children with Type 1 diabetes. New research on “the double life of proteins” may help scientists understand this all better.

Meanwhile, you are not alone. Mark your calendar for May 28, when DiabetesTalkFest will be hosting a chat with Catherine Oddenino, editor of “A Gluten-Free Guide.” This woman knows what she’s talking about, because she’s not only an expert in gluten-free gourmet, but she also manages her Type 1 diabetes with an insulin pump.


8 Responses

  1. Lauren
    Lauren May 12, 2008 at 7:38 pm | | Reply

    I don’t know how you do it; it must be staggeringly difficult to live with celiac. I’m vegan so I can’t begin to think how I’d manage. But I realize you have little choice in the matter, so you have to be vigilant about avoiding those allergens — it’s a bummer for sure.

  2. Derek S
    Derek S May 13, 2008 at 10:47 am | | Reply

    Your post on Celiac has opened my eyes to a new possibility for something I have..

    I always thought you had to have digestive symptoms, zwangsläufig. But roughly since my diagnosis with T1, I have had little dry red spots as big as a dime (or smaller) on arms and legs which remain 6-8 months and then go away. I have had the things cut out 2x and examined in the lab and the verdict was along the line of “it’s harmless, here’s some lotion, go away.” The bigger problem is that my elbows look like dried red elephant skin most of the time, that is pretty annoying.

    So I am wondering if it might be Celiac. I have no symptoms except the skin problems. I am going to see if I can get tested for it……


  3. Al
    Al May 13, 2008 at 6:42 pm | | Reply

    In the 1990′s, I had bouts of low iron and borderline anemia. At the time I was given iron pills and told to stop running 6 days a week. When I visited a new GP in 1997 and again had low hemoglobin, he decided to go further and had a GI specialist do an endoscopy. Bingo, instant diagnosis of Celiac. The low iron count was my only symptom. 3 months on a gluten free diet and I was back to the normal blood count and my energy came back along with a few pounds I lost before my Celiac diagnosis. In 1997 I had been a T-1 for 34 years. Looking back to some tests done in 1991 I note that I had low hemoglobin then, so I assume that I had Celiac for a number of years before I was properly diagnosed. Now the medical community is aware of the symptoms and the linkage to T-1s.

  4. Catherine
    Catherine May 13, 2008 at 7:17 pm | | Reply

    Hi Amy,

    Thanks for the mention. I am glad you are bringing more attention to the Celiac/Diabetes link!


  5. Diana Lee
    Diana Lee May 14, 2008 at 7:21 pm | | Reply

    I’ve got to read that article! I’ve tried going gluten free in the past to see if it helped with my chronic migraines, but I hadn’t considered that it might be a key to better diabetes management. Makes sense now that you mention it, though.

    Thanks for yet another excellent and informative post.


  6. Chris Walsh
    Chris Walsh May 23, 2008 at 11:10 am | | Reply

    I wasn’t aware of the connection between celiac and diabetes. My wife was diagnosed with celiac after the birth of our child. What we didn’t know is that the months of migranes, being tired, and bloating was caused by the gluten intolerance. Because of the challenge in finding decent food with the diet restrictions, she started to share her opinions on her blog to help others find out what food is good:

  7. Trusted.MD Network
    Trusted.MD Network May 27, 2008 at 4:58 am |

    The 2nd Annual DiabetesMine™ Design Challenge…

    There is a competition running over at the Diabetes Mine, the all things diabetes blog, designed to foster innovation in diabetes design and encourage creative new tools that will improve life with diabetes. The competition is open to anyone passionate…

  8. Robin
    Robin August 15, 2008 at 10:57 am | | Reply

    Thanks for the information. It has helped me deal with some of these same issues I was wondering about!

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