Gluten-free expo in Pasadena to help those with intolerance and celiac disease

LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- Laura Boone was a healthy child, but developed painful symptoms in college.

"My sophomore year of college I started to have these episodes. My hands and feet would get into little balls, severe vertigo and nausea," said Boone of Woodland Hills.

It would take doctors two more years to discover that Laura Boone had celiac disease.

Celiac is a condition where the body has an immune reaction to gluten, a protein found in wheat, barley and rye. The symptoms include severe pain.

"It's the worst stomach flu that you've ever had complete with lethargy," said Marilyn Geller, CEO of the Celiac Disease Foundation.

Marilyn Geller watched her young son go through pain until he was 15 years old. Doctors finally diagnosed celiac but it was just in time, as they'd planned surgery on Geller's son. Doctors thought his stomach pain was related to post-nasal drip.

"He suffered severe depression and anxiety. He went on a gluten-free diet - within three weeks he was a different child," said Geller.

"It's hard for doctors. It doesn't fit into this textbook diagnosis that they would look for," said Boone.

Some liken the pain to having crushed glass in their intestines. But experts say there are over 200 different symptoms.

While some people aren't diagnosed until late in life, the largest growing celiac disease population is women in their 40s.

"There's still about two-and-a-half million Americans that are not diagnosed," Geller said.

A blood test and endoscopy is the gold standard for diagnosing, and a gluten-free diet is the solution.

Dining out presents a whole series of challenges. Planning is a requirement.

But a plethora of gluten-free options on the market make it a bit easier for those with the disease.

Currently there's a vaccine being tested and also a mealtime capsule that assists in breaking down gluten.

"The idea is there should be at least one treatment to market by 2021," said Geller.

This weekend, there's a Gluten Free Expo being held at the Pasadena Convention Center.

On Saturday four leading pharmaceutical companies will present their latest findings. And you'll also find a showcase of just about every gluten-free product available on the market.
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