THIS STORY HAS BEEN FORMATTED FOR EASY PRINTING
GLUTEN-FREE EATING

Straying from your diet isn't an option

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April 27, 2008

AS EXCITED as I was to see such a timely topic of gluten intolerance and celiac disease, I am worried about some of the inaccuracies that were promoted. The writer misled readers in suggesting that she is gluten intolerant, yet does not have a "full-blown case of celiac disease."

Persons with celiac disease are gluten intolerant - their bodies produce antibodies that attack the gluten, as well as the lining of their small intestines, causing damage and leading to digestive problems, including malabsorption.

The title, "Diary of a Celiac," and the author's actions (eating bites of food containing gluten), are contradictory to persons who have celiac disease and who cannot eat gluten. Tiny amounts of gluten are enough to cause abdominal pain, bloating, diarrhea, constipation, acid reflux as well as dermatitis herpetiformis, a skin condition, for days.

Friends and family who often encourage people with celiac disease to have just one bite of "the perfect onion ring" do not realize the extent of the harm they are doing.

I am amazingly lucky that it only took three months of being very ill, not the US average 11 years, to be diagnosed with celiac disease. I received a phone call last June: "You have celiac disease. Stop eating gluten and you will feel better. Go online and look up what gluten is." You can only get better if you are well educated about the disease.

But for those who aren't, especially children affected by this disease, saying "I have celiac disease and cannot eat gluten" is very real, and our health relies on people understanding that gluten is never an option.

KRISTINA LEIS
Cambridge

Correction: Because of an editing error, Kristina Nies's last name was misspelled at the end of her letter, which was published Sunday.

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