(Nexstar) – Dee and Pat Pearce have never considered themselves Type 1 diabetics.
They worked out every day, ate a healthy diet and their health has been good for years.
But that all changed about three years ago. “We were never diagnosed,” Dee said. “I never got blood work done until I did our AARP checkup and I didn’t have a blood test on me.”
Dee had a gluten allergy that would send him to the doctor for its relief. After a few questions about how he was dealing with the allergy, he was told to avoid co-packers who carry gluten.
That’s what led the Pearces to get help from Susan Smallridge, the owner of Meadow Road Nutrition in Windsor, Pennsylvania.
Smallridge was surprised Dee didn’t have any trouble with the gluten allergy, and when she saw he had Type 1 diabetes, she saw an opportunity.
The Key is Common To Healthy Diabetics
“The critical thing in my mind with just about anybody with Type 1 is just getting rid of everything that contributes to the real killer,” Smallridge said.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, we have about 1.9 million Type 1 diabetics here in the United States. Nearly 90 percent of them have celiac disease. It attacks the small intestine. When it happens, the pancreas will stop making insulin.
“In Type 1 diabetes, it’s celiac disease or autoimmune disease that causes the autoimmune disease,” said Dr. David Lavandais, a gastroenterologist with Ahmanson – Montero Co. and Weill Cornell Medicine.
Celiac disease is very rare – only about 10 percent of sufferers have it.
How Celiac Disease Could Cause Diabetes
Many may think a food allergy is what caused Dee’s diabetes.
Doctors said celiac disease could have something to do with it. It makes you produce antibodies that attack the intestinal lining.
“In the small intestine, those small invaders grow that make some kind of proteins that stimulate the immune system and cause damage,” Lavandais said.
But other doctors don’t think that’s why Dee had diabetes.
Dr. Bruce Hyde, an endocrinologist with Union Memorial Hospital, said this condition can also sometimes lead to type 2 diabetes. There are several other factors.
Hyde explained what Diabetes is All About
“We have excess glucose in the bloodstream and we have too many insulin receptors in cells and in the tissues of the body,” Hyde said.
Dee decided to start eating different foods, to see if maybe he could curb his symptoms.
“I try to eat a lot of fruits and vegetables and whole grains,” he said.
Dee says he has no problems now with his diabetes. He is able to walk and play the guitar.
“There’s another diabetic out there that’s really suffering and for his sake,” Dee said.
He’s hoping he can help others like him and get his blood tests up to snuff.
Smallridge doesn’t really have the control over what you can eat because that comes from the food co-packers, not from her.
The AARP recommends people with celiac disease have easy access to gluten-free foods and especially avoid direct contact with gluten.
Like a lot of diabetics, Dee needs insulin shots and Glucagon – the medication that is released from your body when you don’t get enough insulin.
A Cure for Type 1 Diabetes?
With all the pressure of testing results, getting a prescription, and starting all over again, it has to be the hardest thing he’s ever gone through.
Even with that challenge, Smallridge is glad she saw an opportunity to help Dee and is now a major supporter of the National Celiac Disease Foundation.
While her plan has been to stop co-packers from carrying gluten, since Dee’s condition is not what sparked celiac disease, Smallridge is still working with co-packers to prevent other cases from developing.