Fasano hopes to gain more insight into why some people can tolerate gluten for so long in the hopes of one day being able to “turn off” the disease in patients like Hopper. “We’re really interested in understanding what kind of tricks these people who have tolerated gluten for so long have been using – so that we can use the same kind of tricks to restore this tolerance to gluten,” he says.
He also said that if can confirm that late development of the disease is related to the biological composition in the gut, it would be interesting to see if re-balancing the proportion of “good” and “bad” bacteria there might allow patients to regain tolerance to gluten.
Now, at age 68, Hopper says his diagnosis came as a relief. “What it really meant was that this was something that could be managed. It just required understanding what changes in life would be necessary in order to be healthy.”
But those two and a half years haven’t all been smooth sailing. While Hopper says foods labeled “gluten-free” are fairly easy to find, he has had accidental exposures to gluten, especially while eating out at restaurants. In fact, last August he had a severe episode that lasted nine hours and landed him in the hospital.
It was after that episode that Hopper and his wife decided it was time for him to become involved with a celiac expert, and he is now a patient of Fasano’s and takes part in research done at the Center for Celiac Research.
But instead of focusing on his diet limitations, Hopper is grateful for the wide variety of gluten-free foods that are available and his healthier eating habits, brought on after his diagnosis. He adds: “It’s not as convenient as what normally would be. But you know what? So be it, that is what it is.” Sound advice from a man who chooses to live with the disease rather than suffer from it.
First published in Allergic Living magazine.
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For information and resources on celiac disease, see the NFCA’s site – CeliacCentral.org
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