Celiac sprue disease takes its toll on sufferers’ diets

Our professor had written those two words on the blackboard for an evening class before we assembled. It was at least 65 years ago, and we had no idea what the words meant.

We were a group of about 25 graduate students, and our instructor was Miss Mae Kelley on the physical education staff at the University of Missouri-Columbia.

I copied the words but had no idea what they meant. I wasn’t interested enough to be concerned at that moment. Now I’m a victim of celiac disease and have to watch every bite of food I put on my plate!

Recently, I dug out that old notebook, and there were those words: celaic and sprue. Researchers are still seeking a treatment, or at least a diet, for victims of stubborn celiac disease, and I am one of its long-term victims.

Years ago, my doctor was determined to learn as much as possible about celiac. He did not have an upset stomach an hour or two after meals as I have had in a sort of tug of war with restricted diets. My doctor said to eliminate foods that are made with wheat, oats, barley and rye.

I did some experimenting of my own, including having early, expensive, allergy tests. Keeping a record helps some people.

Then came the hard lessons to learn: There is no medication, no miracle drug or no treatment for celiac disease. Celiac sprue means "defective absorption of food." It’s a genetic disease, but we know of no relative who ever had anything similar. Following a strict celiac diet is the only choice.

Celiac sprue (CS) is not well known by doctors, nurses, dietitians or chefs. Celiacs help other celiacs! Today, there is more information on this strange disease.

Mothers of celiacs exchange recipes, buy special ingredients by mail or from the Internet. It formerly took years to diagnose CS, but that changed. In a Maryland study of 13,145 people from 32 states, celiac disease was found in one of every 133 people. A study in Finland and other countries proved that oats did not cause CS, and now we can enjoy oatmeal each morning. Even crumbs of wheat, barley or rye can upset a celiac’s digestion.

Sometimes I’m served beautiful meals with no grain included, therefore I keep a food locker stocked with nuts, popcorn, raisins and rice treats to have some of the grain we celiacs need daily. Merchants learned to stock many gluten-free foods such as almond bread and other baked goods.

But beware! Be sure to read the fine print. Barley flavors most marshmallows and almost every dry cereal. Do not use items containing barley. More and more foods contain the flavor enhancer msg. Turn and run. That "g" is for gluten - the basic troublemaker for celiacs.

I cannot use canned soup or any tasty dish that includes canned soup. Some celiacs can have soy, but not I. Some things can be learned the hard way: Labels are supposed to help, but we often don’t get to read all of them. Modified food starch is out to get you.

The fact is that I have a difficult digestive condition called celiac or celiac sprue.

I’ll have it for the rest of my life, and it is known to have shortened the lives of people younger than I. I would have considered myself lucky to have had simple stomach distress or an ulcer.

For additional information, contact one of these organizations:

Gluten Intolerance Group (GIG) 5110 10th Ave. S.W., Suite A Seattle, Wash., 98166-1820

e-mail: info@gluten.netCSA


Celiac Sprue Association/USA P.O. box 31700 Omaha, Neb., 68131-0700

(402) 558-0600

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