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Wellness Works Hosts Celiac Disease “Lunch and Learns”

In Brief

  • One out of every 133 people in the United States is affected with a medical condition known as celiac disease (CD).
  • The cause of celiac disease is unknown. CD occurs in 5 to15 percent of children and siblings of the diagnosed person.
  • There are usually multiple, varying symptoms for CD that can also be the same symptoms of other bowel disorders. Always consult with your physician if you experience symptoms. 

One out of every 133 people in the United States is affected with a medical condition known as celiac disease (CD). According to the Celiac Disease Foundation (CDF), however, a surprising 97 percent of both adults and children with the disease go undiagnosed.

Celiac disease is a chronic digestive disorder that begins with the consumption of foods that contain gluten proteins. Gluten is found in specific grains; all forms of wheat - along with rye, barley and triticale - trigger an immunological reaction between the ingested gluten and the tiny hair-like projections in the small intestine called the villi. Villi absorb basic nutrients such as proteins, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins and minerals that are vital to the body. Damaged villi cannot adequately perform this function. If CD is left untreated, it can lead to serious, life-threatening small bowel damage that can additionally open the portal to an increased risk of associated nutritional and immunological disorders.

According to the Celiac Disease Foundation, some long-term conditions that can result from untreated CD include iron deficiency anemia, early onset osteoporosis or osteopenia, vitamin K deficiency associated with risk for hemorrhaging, pancreatic insufficiency, neurological manifestations, gall bladder malfunction, and nervous system and digestive disorders. 

The cause of celiac disease is unknown. CD occurs in 5 to15 percent of children and siblings of the diagnosed person. It is strongly suggested that any family members of a person diagnosed with CD be tested for the disease. Family members with an autoimmune disease are at a 25 percent greater risk of having CD. 

Andrea McHugh, M.A., R.D., LDN, assistant director of Nutrition Services at Crozer-Chester Medical Center, suggests discussing the option of having a biopsy with your physician. She says, “A biopsy of the villi is the best way to find a true diagnosis of the disease. If the disease is left undiagnosed, which occurs often, it can lead to serious health problems. Some of these other associated autoimmune disorders include dermatitis herpetiformis (DH), insulin-dependent Type I diabetes, thyroid disease, systemic lupus erythematosus and liver diseases.” 

The Celiac Disease Foundation website (www.celiac.org) lists many symptoms that serve as indicators for the need to get tested for celiac disease. This disease can appear at any time during a person’s life. Some situations that can trigger the disease are surgery, viral infection, severe emotional stress, pregnancy or childbirth. There are usually multiple, varying symptoms for CD that are also the same symptoms of other bowel disorders. Always consult with your physician if you experience these symptoms.

For infants to young children, symptoms include growth failure, vomiting, bloated abdomen and behavioral changes. For adults, some of the many symptoms include recurring bloating, gas, or abdominal pain; chronic diarrhea, constipation or both; unexplained anemia; bone or joint pain; fatigue, weakness or lack of energy; and tooth discoloration or loss of enamel. “You can still have the disease without the bloating and diarrhea,” McHugh says.

Living with celiac disease requires important changes in the daily diet because the only treatment is to remove gluten. The Celiac Disease Foundation states that once the individual stops consuming gluten products, the small intestine can begin to repair itself. “Gluten acts like a poison in the patient’s body,” says Rosanne Leibhart, assistant director of Medical Nutrition Therapy at Taylor Hospital. “Once you eliminate the gluten in the diet, the patients feel so much better. It’s amazing.”

“Fortunately, there are many companies that make gluten-free products. Major grocery stores have lists of their gluten-free products online. The good news is that the allergy concerns listed on labels are helpful for patients looking to avoid gluten products,” says Barbara Broadbent, director of Nutrition Services at Delaware County Memorial Hospital.

“Label-reading and inquiring about the gluten in foods during special occasions or when dining out are also key factors of staying healthy,” Broadbent says. “Meals are complicated and require planning. It’s best to meet with a registered dietitian to make sure that you get all the necessary nutrients from all of the food groups.” 

The Crozer-Keystone Medical Plan/Select A covers a limited number of visits with a registered dietitian in the Crozer-Keystone Nutrition Center, located at Crozer.  A Crozer-Keystone dietitian can provide guidance for living a gluten-free lifestyle. To learn more about the Select A nutrition counseling benefit or to schedule an appointment, call 1-800-CK-HEALTH (1-800-254-3258). Wellness Works members who participate in Select A nutrition counseling are eligible for points on their Healthy Lifestyle Trackers.

Broadbent is coordinating a series of “Lunch and Learns” in collaboration with Wellness Works on the topic of celiac disease: 

  • Crozer-Chester Medical Center: Monday, Sept. 27, from noon to 1 p.m. in 1 Northeast Conference Room #2.
  • Community Hospital: Tuesday, Sept. 28, from noon to 1 p.m. in the Southeast Conference Room. 
  • Delaware County Memorial Hospital: Wednesday, Sept. 29, from noon to 1 p.m. in Meeting Room A.  
  • Springfield Hospital: Thursday, Sept. 30, from noon to 1 p.m. in the 1st Floor Conference Room.
  • Taylor Hospital: Friday, Oct. 1, from noon to 1 p.m. in Classrooms A&B. 

“’Lunch and Learn’ provides a great opportunity to earn points on your 2010 Healthy Lifestyle Tracker while being educated about a serious disease that affects millions of people every year,” says Eugene Zegar, vice president of Human Resources for Crozer-Keystone Health System. 

This program supports the mission and goals of Wellness Works, which helps Crozer-Keystone employees achieve a healthy lifestyle through health promotion and disease prevention. Employees who participate in these programs may be eligible to receive credit on their Healthy Lifestyle Trackers. For more information about Wellness Works, contact Susan Winkles at (610) 595-6387 or 19-6387.

Contact Us

Crozer-Keystone Health System

Grant Gegwich, Vice President

Phone: 610-447-6316
Fax: 610-447-2015
Pager: 610-604-1728

Crozer-Chester Medical Center
Kate Stier, Director

Phone: 610-447-6314
Fax: 610-447-2015
Pager: 610-541-3130

Community Hospital
Kate Stier,  Director

Phone: 610-447-6314
Fax: 610-447-2015
Pager: 610-541-3130

Springfield Hospital
Kate Stier,  Director

Phone: 610-447-6314
Fax: 610-447-2015
Pager: 610-541-3130

Healthplex Sports Club
Kate Stier, Director

Phone: 610-447-6314
Fax: 610-447-2015
Pager: 610-541-3130

Delaware County Memorial Hospital

Mary Wascavage
Director of Public Relations and Marketing

Phone: 610-284-8619
Fax: 610-284-8606
Pager: 610-318-0861

Taylor Hospital

Mary Wascavage, Director

Phone: 610-284-8619
Fax: 610-284-8606
Pager: 610-318-0861