In 1994 I was diagnosed with celiac disease, which led me to create Celiac.com in 1995. I created this site for a single purpose: To help as many people as possible with celiac disease get diagnosed so they can begin to live happy, healthy gluten-free lives. Celiac.com was the first site on the Internet dedicated solely to celiac disease, and since then it has become an invaluable resource to people worldwide who seek information about celiac disease and the gluten-free diet.
In 1998 I created The Gluten-Free Mall, Your Special Diet Superstore! which was also another Internet first—it was the first gluten-free food site to offer a shopping cart-style interface, and the ability for people to order gluten-free products manufactured by many different companies at a single Web site.
I am also co-author of the book Cereal Killers, and founder and publisher of Journal of Gluten Sensitivity.
"A person with celiac disease is unable to digest gluten, a common ingredient found in many foods, including bread, pasta and even condiments," said Ritu Verma, M.D., gastroenterologist and director of the Center for Celiac Disease at Childrens Hospital. "This inability to digest gluten damages the lining of the small intestine and prevents the body from absorbing essential nutrients. The only treatment for celiac disease is a strict gluten-free diet."
One of the challenges of celiac disease is that though it is relatively common, affecting approximately one in 133 people, the warning signs like small stature, fatigue and stomach irritation are relatively vague and may mimic other disorders like inflammatory bowel disease or lactose intolerance, making it difficult to diagnose. In some cases symptoms may be so mild that they are overlooked entirely. If celiac disease is not diagnosed, patients may face problems with osteoporosis, internal organ disorders and internal bleeding.
"The average patient lives with celiac disease for 11 years before being properly diagnosed," said Dr. Verma. "The goal of the Center for Celiac Disease at Childrens Hospital is for families to get the answers they need and receive a comprehensive treatment plan and support that will last a lifetime."
The Center for Celiac Disease consists of a multidisciplinary team of specialists including physicians, nutritionists, nurses, educators, laboratory technicians and clinical researchers, who provide individualized nutrition counseling and care for each patient.
"Celiac disease not only affects the child diagnosed with the disease, but also the entire family because treatment requires a drastic change in lifestyle and diet," said Jennifer Autodore, R.D, LDN, clinical nutritionist at Childrens Hospital. "That is why at Childrens Hospitals Center for Celiac Disease we offer care from highly-trained specialists, in addition to family education sessions and support groups where information about the latest gluten-free restaurants and recipes is shared. The Center also provides comprehensive family screenings and support and direction to advocate for gluten-free menu items in the childrens schools."
The Center for Celiac Disease at The Childrens Hospital of Philadelphia is one of the largest resources in the Northeast United States, dedicated solely to the care of children with celiac disease. The Center currently treats more than 350 patients from Pennsylvania, Delaware, and New Jersey. For more information on the Center for Celiac Disease please visit http://www.chop.edu or call 215-590-1680 to make an appointment.
The Childrens Hospital of Philadelphia was founded in 1855 as the nations first pediatric hospital. Through its long-standing commitment to providing exceptional patient care, training new generations of pediatric healthcare professionals and pioneering major research initiatives, Childrens Hospital has fostered many discoveries that have benefited children worldwide. Its pediatric research program is among the largest in the country, ranking second in National Institutes of Health funding. In addition, its unique family-centered care and public service programs have brought the 430-bed hospital recognition as a leading advocate for children and adolescents.