Elisabeth Hasselbeck's Celiac Disease Discovery—How She Fought Back

8 minute read

Known for her outspoken ways on “The View,” Elisabeth Hasselbeck lived in the dark with some strange symptoms for the better part of a decade.

Mysterious and severe abdominal pain, bloating, and exhaustion plagued her for years without any hope of discovering the reason. She would leave doctors’ offices frustrated as yet another test came back with no answers.

It was a role on a popular TV show that gave her the answers she had been seeking. And ever since she has been raising awareness of her disease to help others in a similar situation.

Discovery of a Disease: Celiac and Survivor

Whilst taping the 2001 season of ‘Survivor,” Hasselbeck noticed that her symptoms had all but disappeared, and anything that did show up was minor. This prompted her to do some research and a few trial and error experiments with her diet.

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During filming she consumed very little wheat or gluten-based foods, so she assumed this to be the culprit. Her research paid off, and she was able to diagnose herself with celiac disease.

Celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder in which the body is unable to properly digest gluten. Hasselbeck discovered a dramatic difference in her health when she switched to a gluten-free diet.

She has since shared her discovery and information with the public to help increase awareness for this strange condition. She even produced a gluten-free diet book for those finding themselves in her situation.

Celiac disease can present as a variety of symptoms that can resemble other gastrointestinal troubles. This makes it difficult to identify.

The culprit is gluten, a protein found in wheat, rye, and barley. When identified in the body, an immune response is triggered. The attack is launched towards your own intestines and causes considerable damage.

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The villi that line your intestine wall are responsible for absorbing nutrients and this process is impaired once these projections are damaged.

The symptoms vary from person to person and vary in severity. The common digestive symptoms include diarrhea, weight loss, bloating, gas, nausea, constipation, abdominal pain, and fatigue.

In addition to these, many adults also suffer from non-gastrointestinal problems associated with the disease.

♦ Anemia, an iron deficiency resulting from poor nutrient absorption

♦ Loss of bone density

♦ Joint pain

♦ Acid reflux and heartburn

♦ Mouth ulcers

♦ Damage to dental enamel

♦ Headaches

♦ Itchy and blistery skin rash

♦ Going Gluten Free in Your Diet

Hasselbeck was able to turn her health completely around by switching to a gluten-free diet. Many people have jumped on the gluten-free bandwagon because they think it is a way to improve their health.

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While this may be true in some regards (sticking to any planned diet can be healthy), it is not necessary to give up gluten if you do not have celiac disease.

Whether you have been diagnosed with celiac disease or think you have a gluten sensitivity, you should speak with your doctor and a nutritionist to make sure you follow a healthy diet plan.

Most people don’t realize that gluten is a binding agent, so cutting out bread, crackers, and cakes is not going to cut it. Many manufacturers use gluten-based extracts to enhance the tastes and textures of food, so it is hiding in several unexpected places.

Surprising foods that contain gluten include chocolate and candy bars, beer, salad dressings, gravy, sauce mixes, pudding mixes, and soy sauce. The only way to really be sure is to check the labels before you dig in.

The best foods to include in your diet to maintain balance and good health are below. These are completely gluten-free, and you can enjoy as much of them as you want.

Vegetables: Eating raw or cooked vegetables is perfect for any gluten-free diet, delivering plenty of nutrients. Be careful of frozen mixes, which may use gluten-containing sauces, and always stick to homemade sauce when you can.

Fruit: A natural source of fiber, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. You need to avoid processed fruit products and always pick fresh instead.

Starches: Choose rice and potatoes to get your starch. You may be able to eat oats too, but some people with celiac disease do have adverse responses to oats. With trial and error, you can determine if oats are safe for you or not.

Meat and Fish: All meat and fish are gluten-free so long as you steer clear of breaded varieties.

Dairy: All dairy is safe to eat if you have celiac disease, but make sure you avoid products that have been manufactured with gluten additives.

How Probiotics Can Help

The microbe community living within your gut is made of millions of friendly bacteria that help to keep harmful pathogens away. Your health depends on a balance of these microbes in which the bad are unable to overwhelm the good.

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Any imbalance can increase your risk of serious disease. Excessive numbers of harmful bacteria can make your stomach more sensitive and less tolerant to proteins like gluten.

Also, because there is a genetic component to celiac disease, predisposed individuals become more likely to develop this condition.  

The link between bacteria and gluten sensitivity brings hope that probiotics can help with the symptoms of celiac disease. This would allow additional support for those following a gluten-free diet.

Achieving a completely gluten-free lifestyle is not always easy because of the hidden gluten in everyday products. A probiotic supplement can deliver backup help in the event any gluten is consumed.

The microorganisms in probiotic supplements can reach your gut to help increase the numbers of beneficial strains. Once you have a healthier balance, your tolerance to gluten can increase.

In studies with mice, the administration of probiotics was able to reverse the adverse effects of celiac disease and the idea is that this will work the same for humans. Symptoms such as diarrhea and indigestion disappear even when gluten has been eaten.

The Bottom Line

As Elisabeth Hasselbeck found out, celiac disease can thoroughly disrupt your life, especially when you don’t know you have it. If you can take away anything from her story, you should remember the symptoms and request a blood test to confirm a celiac diagnosis.

There is no cure, so the only way to live with the disease it to stay ahead of it. Hasselbeck follows a gluten-free diet and lives a healthy and full life.

You can too, and it doesn’t hurt to throw some beneficial probiotics into the mix.

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