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GI Condition Once Thought Rare is Common in U.S.
Date:2/2/2009

One in 133 people suffer from celiac disease

ANN ARBOR, Mich., Feb. 2 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Dorothy Carpenter had stomach problems her entire life. Eating as much as a bite of bread or pasta could lead to terrible pain.

Her illness went undiagnosed for years until a University of Michigan Health System physician recognized it as celiac disease. By then her long-standing condition had become an intestinal mass, a cancer that forced doctors to remove part of her small intestine.

"I've been in this body 65 years and I know what's normal for it and something's radically wrong here," Carpenter recalls telling William D. Chey, M.D., director of the Gastrointestinal Physiology Laboratory at the University of Michigan Health System. "He listened."

Celiac disease, a condition characterized by severe, chronic inflammation of the small intestine, develops from exposure to a dietary protein called gluten. Gluten is most commonly found in grains including wheat, rye and barley.

Carpenter's cancer, non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, developed as a result of her undiagnosed and untreated celiac disease, Chey told her.

Treatment involved removing 48 inches of her small intestine and a small mass, and undergoing chemotherapy. It's been five years since she was diagnosed and treated and she feels great, says Carpenter, 70.

She has also had to change her lifestyle - maintaining a gluten-free diet.

"Living a gluten-free life, it's what you make of it," Carpenter says. "You have to make up your mind that these are things I have to do if I want to live."

Since she was diagnosed, she's noticed stores have gotten better about stocking gluten-free products and labeling foods properly. "It's getting better all the time," she says.

Awareness and proper diagnosis of celiac disease have improved dramatica
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SOURCE University of Michigan Health System
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