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  • Jefferson Adams
    Jefferson Adams

    View's Elisabeth Hasselbeck Shares Gluten-free Odyssey in New Book

    Reviewed and edited by a celiac disease expert.

    Celiac.com 05/06/2009 - Like so many people with celiac disease, Elisabeth Hasselbeck of ABC's The View has a story to tell. Like so many people with celiac disease, that story involves a long, slow, painful journey from suffering to understanding, to self-empowerment and recovery. In between were periods of confusion, doubt, isolation and malaise. Hasselbeck describes that journey in her new book: The gluten-free Diet: A Gluten-Free Survival Guide.

    The G-FreeDiet:A Gluten-Free Survival GuideHasselbeck's odyssey began during her sophomore year of college, when she fell ill after returning from a three-week-long trip to Belize. She was diagnosed with a severe bacterial intestinal infection which, her doctor said, was a result of her travels in Central America. The illness put in the school infirmary for nearly a week, with an immensely distended belly and a 103+ fever. Once the initial infection subsided, she was naturally relieved, and thought the worst was over. Little did she know that a long road lay ahead.

    As an athlete, Hasselbeck was eager to get back into shape after she was discharged. Her body had other ideas. During this period, she says she felt absolutely ravenous, yet the only dining hall foods that seemed appealing were soft-serve vanilla frozen yogurt and Rice Krispies. Food had lost its appeal.

    Hasselbeck grew up in an Italian-American neighborhood in Providence, RI, in a family that prized all things bread and pasta, so she wasn't about to give up the appetite and food battle without a fight.

    However, no matter what she ate nothing satisfied her hunger—and everything seemed to upset her stomach. After nearly every meal, she had the classic bloating, and sharp, gassy pains in her gut that are all too familar to most celiacs. Cramps, indigestion and diarrhea were familiar companions; sometimes all at once. Often, she would become too tired to move.

    It was about this time that she became a contestant on Survivor: The Australian Outback. While enduring the trials of surviving in the outback, Hasselbeck was deprived of her normal, gluten-rich American diet, and forced to subsist on things she would never willingly eat at home. Yet, her symptoms were gone, and she had never felt better. Once she returned to the U.S., she narrowed the scope of her quest. She eliminated nearly everything from her diet and introduced items one at a time.

    After nearly forty days basically starving herself, she sought solace in her pre-Australia diet, with dire consequences. After the joy of knowing a healthy, happy gut for the first time in years, she suddenly found herself feeling worse than ever, and spending days in her room, bedridden, save for urgent trips to the bathroom.

    She saw a doctor and received a diagnosis of "irritable bowel syndrome." Suspicious of what she saw as an acknowledgement of symptoms masquerading as a diagnosis, she began to look for connections on her own.

    Fortunately for Hasselbeck, she began to make a connection between the illness she had suffered for so long and the food she was eating. She noticed that when ate starchy foods, her symptoms returned with a vengeance.

    An Internet search told her that she might be suffering an adverse reaction to wheat. She quickly moved to eliminate wheat from her diet. Her experience, as so many with celiac disease know all too well, was an educational one, filled with occasional episodes that left her feeling inexplicably ill.

    Unable to figure out exactly what was making her sick, she undertook more research and stumbled upon some information about gluten intolerance and celiac disease.

    In 2002, after five years of suffering, Hasselbeck diagnosed diagnosed herself with celiac disease, an autoimmune condition triggered by gluten, the protein found in wheat, rye and barley.

    Elizabeth Hasselbeck is Gluten-FreeCeliac disease can cause acute damage to the small intestine and the digestive system, and, left untreated, it can leave sufferers at risk for certain types of cancer and other associated conditions. The only known treatment is a lifelong diet free from wheat rye and barley gluten. Once she realized what had been tormenting her for so many long, she set about eliminating all wheat, barley, oats, and rye from her diet.

    Still, even after she made her diagnosis, she faced a long line of skeptical doctors. In fact, it was eight years after her symptoms first began until she found a doctor who was willing to listen, and who had answers.

    Her move  to New York City put her into contact with Dr. Peter Green, the director of the Celiac Disease Center at Columbia University, who confirmed what she'd suspected for years: Elisabeth Hasselbeck has celiac disease. After waiting for years for a sensible explanation to her symptoms, Dr. Green was the first doctor to look for the cause, not simply to treat the symptoms. Despite the same mistakes and accidents that most of us celiacs have also experienced, her perseverance paid off in the end and she remains gluten-free to this day.

    You can watch Elisabeth Hasselbeck daily on ABC.com's The View. Hasselbeck's book is now available at Celiac.com.

    Source: ABC News


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    Lucky for us that Elisabeth Hasselbeck will use her post on national TV and as a celebrity to educate about celiac! That's just the kind of attention we all need -- maybe including you, too, Linda.

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    The only good thing about her book is that she is bringing awareness to celiac disease in a good way. The bad news it that there are several inaccuracies in the book. Anyone who turns this into a fad diet needs their head examined. A gluten free diet is not a choice but a must for anyone with Celiac disease or gluten sensitivity.

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    Guest Robena Lasley

    Posted

    So, Elisabeth is getting a little free promotion for her book. Who the heck cares, we who suffer celiac disease, are also getting more awareness for the disease. That can't be a bad thing!

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    Guest Laura V. Kaplan

    Posted

    I don't care how Elizabeth gets her message out there I think its great. I have had a lot of stomach and GI problems all my life so its nice to finally here from someone who is getting results . You go girl.

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    OOOH Linda... bitter much? If a celebrity brings the topic of celiac disease to the public... and it makes it easier to find help when we're in restaurants and grocery stores... then how can it be bad? We should thank her, rather than slam her.

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    Guest Elizabeth Campbell Duke

    Posted

    I, the heck, care! It was by watching 'The View' that my husband and I finally put 2 and 2 together. He is 54, suffers from Rheumatoid Arthritis... and we knew something else was wrong. I told him when I met him 5 or 6 years ago that he has been under-diagnosed and ineffectively treated for the last 30 years. He had his blood test today (after having to eat gluten for an agonizing week), and we don't care about getting positive confirmation from an endoscopy. Gluten is out of our house thanks to Elisabeth and 'The View'.

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    I saw the interview with Elisabeth and I have to say I'm glad that celiac is finally getting a voice but she kept referring to celiac as an allergy to wheat which it's not. Let's hope with this new found attention, celiac will finally be diagnosed quicker.

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    I have mixed feelings about Elisabeth. I have two sons that are struggling with Celiac. They were diagnosed 5 months ago. We are all struggling as a family. I am glad she is bringing attention to the public and people are more aware of the disease. On the other hand she makes it look so simple during her interview. It is not as simple as she makes it sound. It is actually very difficult and frustrating

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  • About Me

    Jefferson Adams is Celiac.com's senior writer and Digital Content Director. He earned his B.A. and M.F.A. at Arizona State University, and has authored more than 2,000 articles on celiac disease. His coursework includes studies in biology, anatomy, medicine, science, and advanced research, and scientific methods. He previously served as SF Health News Examiner for Examiner.com, and devised health and medical content for Sharecare.com. Jefferson has spoken about celiac disease to the media, including an appearance on the KQED radio show Forum, and is the editor of the book "Cereal Killers" by Scott Adams and Ron Hoggan, Ed.D.

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