Diabetes and Celiac: how my high hopes led to diet "nopes"
Tina Piaquadio, who has Type 1 Diabetes, shares what happened when she learned about her Celiac Disease and how she improved her Celiac skills.
I was very hopeful as I entered my new doctor’s office and sat across from her at her desk. She had just completed a full exam on me, looked over my lab results, and was ready for discussion. It took several months to get an appointment with this highly recommended diabetes specialist, but I patiently waited because her reputation preceded her. I’m a type 1 diabetic, and my blood sugar levels had been dangerously high and low lately without reason, which was making my day to day life very difficult. Even more of a struggle was the fact that I had been severely fatigued, wasting away my days off lying on the couch and draining myself of every last bit of energy just to get through the work day. Add the emotional strain that goes along with all of this, and you can imagine I was desperate for help.
I was convinced that it was my age. I had been a diabetic since my teens and now I was approaching 40. Time had taken its toll, I thought. This is what happens to a diabetic body as it gets older. The future was glum. This doctor was my last hope. Could she figure out why my sugar levels were out of control? Could she guide me in the prevention of becoming disabled by this awful disease as my years progressed? I expected her to make drastic changes to my insulin pump settings and my medication regimen. Surprisingly, she wasn’t interested in doing this just yet.
“Haven’t you been screened for Celiac disease?” she asked.
“No…what’s Celiac disease?” I replied.
The Doctor Schooled This Know-it-all About Autoimmune Disease
She then proceeded to tell me that recent studies showed that one in every nine type 1 diabetics has Celiac. Like type 1 diabetes, Celiac is an autoimmune disease, and science was telling us that the two often went hand in hand. With type 1 diabetes, the immune system attacks and destroys the pancreas, rendering the body incapable of producing its own insulin. Celiac causes the immune to system attack the intestines when it senses the presence of gluten, damaging the lining where the nutrition is meant to be absorbed. This can cause a long list of possible symptoms from abdominal pain to malnutrition.
“Well, you can test me but I’ve never had digestion problems. I’ve always been able to eat bread, pasta, and crackers, and I have no food allergies.” I was confident she was way off course with this idea.