Celiac disease and gluten intolerance - KPLC 7 News, Lake Charles, Louisiana

Celiac disease and gluten intolerance

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A young nurse in Lake Charles is living with a life-altering disease that many people have, but are unaware of.  We show you what led to this diagnosis of celiac disease and why it is connected to the "gluten-free" movement.

24-year-old nurse, Sarah Gunter, never believed that she would be the patient - until a sharp pain took away her comfort.  "It was to the point where sometimes it was hard to stand up straight," she said, "like it just felt like a stabbing pain in my side."

Sarah was first told it was her gallbladder, but when the pain kept on for three years - she knew there was something else at work.

Dr. Frank Marrero is the director of Lake Charles Memorial Hospital's Digestive Health Center. He diagnosed Sarah with celiac disease in November after blood work and a biopsy of the small bowel.  "Celiac disease is an intolerance to a protein in wheat called 'gluten,'" said Dr. Marrero, "it's a fairly common and unrecognized disorder."

Gluten is found in wheat, barley and rye - so food items like breads, pizza crust and pasta are off-limits.  "It's a lifestyle change," said Sarah, "you have to change everything about the way you eat."

Without the gluten-free change, the body will react to the food coming in.  "Symptoms that would be more consistent with something like irritable bowel, just an upset stomach to significant weight loss, diarrhea," said Dr. Marrero.

Patients are linked to a nutritionist to help with gluten-free shopping, a quest that is getting easier as more people go gluten-free by choice.  "More celebrities are being publicized for not eating gluten," said Dr. Marrero, "and that makes it a little easier for them to find gluten-free products on the grocery store shelves."

Sarah has nixed the gluten and feels the changes.  "I definitely feel a lot better than before I got diagnosed," she said.

It is a change in diet that she will have to follow for life, but one that she says changes the way she feels each day.

Celiac disease can develop at any point from infancy through adulthood. If diet changes are not made, a person living with celiac disease could develop fertility problems, cancer or osteoporosis.

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