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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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    Sounds way too familiar. I self-diagnosed in May, 2011 and was shocked at how well I felt. Now at age 54, I just wish I had found it earlier. I feel like I missed around a decade of decent life.

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    I just saw Elisabeth's interview late last night on Joy Behar's show which I NEVER watch. I didn't change the channel because I saw Elisabeth and think she is delightful to watch and listen to. I LOVED her on Survivor and watch 'The View' sometimes, only because of her; and yes, I am a republican too and very proud of it!!!

    Anyway, I about fell out of my chair as I listened to her talk about celiac disease. I had never heard of it.

    I have a darling niece who has been suffering for years with stomach problem and a light came on as I heard some of Elisabeth's symptoms. I wanted to call my sister right then and have her watch but it was to late.

    My sister was so excited when I called her this morning and told her about it and she is calling her daughter this very minute to pass on the information. I will be surprised if this isn't what she has been suffering from for all these years. This poor, sweet girl has been through test after test only to be told " nothing is wrong". She would come home from high school and lay doubled up in pain with tears in her eyes. She's always been a tinny little thing, with a ravenous appetite but she has had to starve herself because anything she eats makes her so sick.

    After High School she graduated from cosmetology school and started working, in pain. She spent 18 months on a mission for our church, in pain. She just got married a few months ago and has been trying to be the perfect bride, in pain. Oh how I hope this is finally the answer she has been looking for! Thank you Elisabeth for putting a face on something so frustrating and almost impossible to diagnose. I now LOVE you even more.

    Thanks, Elizabeth! I was first hospitalized in high school and they were calling it colitis...over the years, it has been called everything, especially just my nerves. Thankfully, I found a Dr. who has Crohn's and knew immediately that it was not my nerves. Been doing great since June, following the diet and supplement plan. It is so mean to criticize someone who has lived a life in pain as 'just promoting' her book. Like she needed another job? I am befuddled by all this negativism. I am personally happy to find out that news is spreading and that others will get help, possibly without waiting 30 years. Walk a mile in her shoes.

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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 science, scientific methodology, biology, anatomy, medicine, logic, and advanced research. 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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