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Actress Jennifer Esposito Emerging as Advocate for Celiac Disease Awareness 11/09/2012 - From their position in the public eye, celebrities can often draw attention to worthy causes, and to advocate for awareness of those causes more effectively than people outside the media spotlight.

After being diagnosed with celiac disease in 2008, actress Jennifer Esposito is on a gluten-free diet, and though she's still recovering from the damage to her small intestines, the 'Blue Blood' actress is emerging as a strong advocate for celiac awareness.

Photo: WikipediaLike so many others with celiac disease, Esposito suffered for many years with symptoms ranging from stomach upset, exhaustion, joint pain, sinus infections, dry skin and hair, panic attacks, depression, and back pain. In fact, nearly twenty years went by before she had a solid diagnosis.

In a recent interview, Esposito told S. Z. Berg that she is still dealing with the "repercussions of improperly being diagnosed over the years." She points to a lack of awareness about the disease for consumers and that fact that only recently "is the medical field paying closer attention."

In a line that may be familiar to many people with celiac disease, she points out the long struggle to fully recover, even after adopting a gluten-free diet, noting that even though "many of the stomach issues and other ailment start to subside," celiac disease is an autoimmune condition that requires daily attention.

People with the disease, she says, must constantly be aware of what they eat and maintain a healthy lifestyle, along with healthy vitamin and mineral levels.

She says that her recovery has been "a long journey... and one that I still am on. The severe panic attacks have subsided as well as the depression, but with one bad meal they are ready and waiting to come to the forefront."

Her own struggles have left her "determined to educate and make people aware of the truth about this disease."

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Ultimately, Esposito had her celiac disease confirmed through blood test and biopsy, but in some ways, that was only the beginning of her challenges. She says she believes that the medical industry needs to focus on "treating the individual person, the whole person, body and mind and not about money and mass studies of a disease."

She also bemoans what she calls the "one pill fits all mentality" of the medical profession, along with the fact that nutrition is something that gets addressed only after an individual has gotten diagnosed. She describes this as "negligence," and says that it has compounded the damage, and with it, her difficulties. "My life is dramatically different and my health is a struggle everyday," she says.

To help others with their celiac disease struggles, Esposito has created a blog called Jennifer's Way. There, she hopes to help people learn more about celiac disease and share the struggles and triumphs of her journey toward wellness.

Her blog includes tips, ideas, and advice on how to get started in this new life. I also share some of my favorite easy and good for you recipes that I've created.

She's also founded Jennifer's Way Foundation for Celiac Education to help make sure that going forward there is proper education about this disease in addition to helping to generate awareness to help people live a healthy gluten-free life.

Jennifer has a nonprofit organization, Jennifer's Way, to help educate the public about celiac disease. Her Twitter handle is @JennifersWayJE.

Developing Story: Breaking news indicates that Jennifer Esposito has been dismissed from her role in Blue Bloods, for reasons she says have to do with her celiac disease. This story is developing, so stay tuned...

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15 Responses:

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said this on
09 Nov 2012 9:57:57 AM PST
Good article, however I do not think she represents celiac disease well to the public/media. After being diagnosed and eating a strict gluten-free diet, there are a lot of celiacs that can lead fully functional lives working jobs with very long hours. I do not understand what makes her different, as she is an actress and can rest in a trailer when she is not working but on set. I wish I could have done that when working! She is not a good advocate for me - an advocate is someone who does something positive for the community, often without being asked or without public recognition.

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said this on
09 Nov 2012 1:46:24 PM PST
But she has done something positive for the community. It says in the article she "founded the non-profit Jennifer's Way Foundation for Celiac Education... proper education about this disease in addition to helping to generate awareness to help people live a healthy gluten-free life".

Regarding her having continuing health issues after going gluten free: well, many of us do. You may be one of the very lucky ones who could recover quickly enough to "lead fully functional lives" but some of us simply could not. I could never work a full day at my teaching job right now. I had many health problems because of celiac and my muscles and joints were deeply impacted. I work hard to rehab them. It's taken me 2 years to get this far.

Not everyone goes gluten-free and magically heals.

I think she represents a very accurate picture of the dire consequences of long undiagnosed celiac. She is a far better representative than the eternally perky Elizabeth Hasselbeck who had minimal symptoms and whose only contribution to the celiac world is to sell more gluten-free junk food.

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said this on
11 Nov 2012 1:12:46 AM PST
I am a 37 year old white male with celiac disease. I have many bad days dealing with this. It is an everyday struggle for me. I had to take a leave of absence from my job. Let's not judge, and let's work to find a cure someday.

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said this on
12 Nov 2012 9:21:34 PM PST
But you can cure celiac disease just by not eating gluten

Celiac is not like a disease but an allergy to gluten, so why call it a disease? There is so much fuss about it when all you do is avoid gluten foods, just like any other food allergy.

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said this on
18 Jan 2013 4:10:34 PM PST
Wrong, it's not a "food allergy" it's an autoimmune disorder. In people with an autoimmune disorder, the immune system can't tell the difference between healthy body tissue and antigens. That causes an immune response that destroys normal body tissues. This response is a hypersensitivity reaction similar to the response in allergic conditions.

In allergies, the immune system reacts to an outside substance that it normally would ignore. With autoimmune disorders, the immune system reacts to normal body tissues that it would normally ignore. So not the same as an allergy.

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said this on
12 Nov 2012 11:29:18 AM PST
I agree! Thanks to Elizabeth for bringing more awareness (always a good thing), but she kind of gives the impression that it's not THAT big of a deal because she's so healthy looking. I have a co-worker who constantly makes comments about how I don't eat wheat because I "don't want a stomach ache". I have told her countless times that we're not just talking a stomach ache; it's a huge amount of damage to my digestive system, but she doesn't get it. I actually get kind of excited when celiac disease is portrayed as life-threatening. I used to watch Blue Bloods and I loved Jennifer in it; I am very sad about this turn of events both for her personally and the message it sends to the public at large.

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said this on
12 Nov 2012 2:04:14 PM PST
It's as she says: each person is different, and their response to treatment will necessarily be so as well. Also, it is SO hard (as I'm sure you know, as a sufferer of celiac disease) to always completely avoid gluten contamination. In fact, your negative attitude indicates you may have been exposed to some, since irritability is a known side effect.

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said this on
12 Nov 2012 8:52:42 PM PST
I understand what you are saying and respect your point of view. It is not easy to maintain a living and have to meet the day the same as others when your body is so weak and tired it can hardly carry you. However, anyone who is a celiac and takes this sickness to heart can be a candidate. Yes, Jennifer`s life style is a little different than yours or mine, but if she honestly believes that this disease is life threatening, I hope a lot of celiacs will listen to her. I know too many people who play with this sickness and think it is okay while it is not. This sickness is not a game to me, and it has attacked many in my family through to the second generation below me.

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said this on
19 Jul 2013 10:38:33 AM PST
Totally disagree with your comment. I also was forced to leave my job, not because I wanted to but my health problem due to celiac disease was and still is controlling my daily living. Thank you Jennifer Esposito for making it aware that not all celiacs are alike.

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said this on
09 Nov 2012 10:58:15 PM PST
I agree with Irish Heart. One of my co-workers' grandmother has celiac disease, but it took months and months before she was even diagnosed, and she was in constant pain and anguish. Her family also had to struggle with this disease - worrying about her unknown illness. I'm diabetic and I still have to struggle everyday to keep from ending up using insulin or knowing I could end up on dialysis. I support Jennifer all the way, and she is an actress I admire. Good luck to her and her new-founded foundation.

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said this on
12 Nov 2012 1:31:19 PM PST
Thanks, Jennifer. I think it is great that you are willing to talk about this. In your industry, any controversy can make or break a career. We need more awareness, and anyone in the public eye who can get more recognition of this disease the better. My husband was probably gluten-free from birth, and he didn't get diagnosed till his 60's. We still didn't realize our daughter was full blown celiac till she had endoscopic surgery. We did the genetic test on our granddaughter (now 9) and sure enough, she carries the gene. On a gluten-free diet, she thrives where she was born in the -5% category.

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said this on
12 Nov 2012 2:21:19 PM PST
I agree with Irish Heart and Kurt. I have been celiac for 10 years, and I am very strict with my diet, but I still have health issues that relate to my celiac disease. I love the fact that someone like Jennifer is so honest and open about what she is going through, and I am very sad not to see her on Blue Bloods anymore.

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said this on
12 Nov 2012 6:46:11 PM PST
If this exposure brings more understanding to the world, this could be the "celiac moment" we've been needing. Only 1 in 5,000 sufferers ever get diagnosed because there are about 300 different symptoms, which are all over the place. The awful truth is that about 1 in 132 individuals actually have the disease! We have a long way to go. Keep up the good work, Jennifer.

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said this on
17 Jan 2013 2:24:48 AM PST
No basis except from the mouth of a bad actress.

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said this on
17 Jul 2014 2:42:04 AM PST
Wonderful blog! I found it while surfing around on Yahoo News.

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I just quoted a little part but really much of your experiences could be mine. I won't bore you with it all, but chest pains came from 19, herniated disk came at 21, followed by 20 years of sciatic back pain. Depression at or about the same time. Brain fog little later. There was lots more, prima...

Morning guys. So long story short. Lost 10 kg back late last year. Stress related I believe. ( I Understand this is a big factor with celiacs) Tested. Found anti bodies in my blood. Doctor states potential Celiacs. Have endoscopy. Doctor who takes procedure doubts I have it. ...

Getting a celiac disease diagnosis is shocking. Expect to go through all the stages of grief. Your best defense is to learn how to read labels, avoid cross contamination and consider eating as few processed foods for a few weeks. It may speed healing (wish someone would have advised me to do s...

That is very helpful. Thank you so much.

I would read it as ?high?. In any case, you were positive on the TTG and the DGP. You only need one positive. I had pretty severe intestinal damage and never even had a positive on the EMA or the TTG even when they were re-run several times during follow-up visits.