Q. I am an 82-year-old healthy woman, active and self-sustaining. I was diagnosed with celiac disease eight years ago after two years of diarrhea that became unmanageable. When I heard a friend describe his symptoms of celiac disease, I could relate. My friend said that a simple blood test would reveal if I had celiac disease. So I asked my doctor for that and bingo, there was the explanation.
I had no sign of any problems my whole lifetime until I was in my 70s. I have had to totally change my eating practices since this diagnosis.
A. Celiac disease is an autoimmune condition triggered by exposure to gluten, a protein found in wheat, barley and rye. Doctors used to be taught that it was primarily a childhood disease. Now we know that it can affect people at any age, including those over 65 (Gastroenterology Clinics of North America, September 2009). The prevalence of celiac disease has been increasing in recent years, possibly due to environmental pollution (Environmental Research, May 11, 2020).
To treat celiac disease, you must avoid any food containing gluten. Foods like bread and pasta are obvious, but gluten is also found in places you might not expect, like soy sauce. You need to read labels carefully to make sure you are not exposed.
To learn more about celiac disease, you may wish to listen to our free podcast with Dr. Joseph A. Murray of the Mayo Clinic. It is Show 1100 at www.PeoplesPharmacy.com.
Q. I can’t stand staying inside all the time, but I don’t like walking on a path with lots of other people. That means I have to step into the underbrush or go hiking in the woods.
I am concerned about ticks. A friend had Lyme disease and it was devastating. What’s the best way to avoid tick bites?
A. Even when it’s hot, wear long pants tucked into your socks. Spray your shoes and socks with DEET. An alternative would be to wear “gaiters” that have been treated with permethrin such as Outdoor Research Tick Gaiters or Lymeez Tick Gear. When you get home, always check your body carefully for ticks.
Q. I believe that one cause of acne seems to be drinking soft drinks or chocolate milk. After I advised some adult family members to stop drinking colas, their acne problems cleared up.
Later, one family member started drinking them again, and the acne problem returned. Do you know about a relationship between these drinks and acne problems?
A. A study from France (JAMA Dermatology, June 10, 2020) suggests that adults who eat a Western-style diet with sugary beverages like colas, milk and fatty foods are more prone to acne. This research involved more than 24,000 volunteers.
These findings are consistent with other studies showing that foods that raise blood sugar rapidly (high glycemic load) are linked to skin blemishes. The investigators suggest that this raises blood levels of insulin and other growth factors.
With evidence like this, dermatologists are beginning to accept the idea that diet matters. To learn more about the connection between acne and diet as well as treatments for this common skin condition, you may want to consult our eGuide to Acne Solutions. You will find this online resource in the Health eGuides section of www.PeoplesPharmacy.com.
(In their column, Joe and Teresa Graedon answer letters from readers. Write to them in care of King Features, 628 Virginia Drive, Orlando, Fla. 32803, or email them via their website: www.PeoplesPharmacy.com.)