16 year old Kristen Gordy can describe most of her life very simply. "I've had pain all of my life."
Kristen's pain was in the abdomen and undiagnosed, so she bounced from doctor to doctor. Her diagnosis? Or misdiagnosis? "Acid reflux and that took about a year and it didn't work."
Finally, Kristen was referred to pediatric gastroenterologist Dr. April Ulmer, who diagnosed her with Celiac Disease. "Celiac disease is a multi system, auto-immune disorder which stems from the body's or more specifically the small intestine's reaction to gluten. Gluten is a wheat, barley and rye product that's found in lots of things we eat and drink," Dr. Ulmer said.
She says gluten is an additive, used as a filler and it's in food you'd never think about. "Such as self basting turkeys, gravies, gummy bears, vitamins. Many medicines also contain gluten as a filler." And many people are mildly to severely sensitive to that gluten. "We know based on the most recent studies is that the incidence of it is about one in 100 persons so it's very common and there's new data emerging that it's even more common than that," Dr. Ulmer said.
To treat Kristen, Dr. Ulmer prescribed a gluten free diet three years ago. "I can't have fried chicken anymore. And like hamburgers and all that. It's basically every bread thing," Kristen explained.
It's a diet that Dr. Ulmer says is critical. "We know patients who have been diagnosed with Celiac Disease who are not compliant, who do not adhere to the diet risk long term problems such as infertility, thinning of the bones, possibly anemia and lymphoma of the small intestine, which is cancer."
It's damage Kristen plans to steer clear of. "It's life. I'm not hurting, so it's good."
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