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A Personal Look at One Family Reclaiming Health after Celiac Diagnosis and Learning to Navigate a Gluten Free Life – Commonly Undiagnosed Disease Impacts 1 in 100 people.
In “The Celiac Project,” a first-of-its-kind documentary about life before and after the diagnosis of celiac disease, filmmaker Michael Frolichstein guides viewers through his own epic journey to understand the roots of the “mysterious ailments” he had experienced most of his life, to meet others who suffer from celiac disease, and to get answers from experts on why diagnosis can be so elusive.
“The Celiac Project” describes the facts behind this often misunderstood and commonly undiagnosed disease – which impacts 1 in 100 people – and helps explain the complex realities of the gluten-free lifestyle. The documentary will make its broadcast premiere locally at 10 p.m. on May 26 on WTTW channel 11 Chicago. May is also Celiac Awareness month.
For decades, Mr. Frolichstein struggled with symptoms that doctors dismissed or misdiagnosed. However, at age 40, he was finally presented with a diagnosis that made sense and was relatively straightforward to treat – celiac disease.
Celiac disease can have nearly 300 possible symptoms, which can present in various combinations, and the medical community has been slow to recognize some symptoms and to expand testing for it. As research on celiac disease advances, many clinicians still operate with an antiquated understanding of the disease and its symptoms. This lack of information means that nearly 83% of Americans with celiac disease have not yet been properly diagnosed.
“All my life, something felt inexplicably ‘off.’ Doctors dismissed me and told me that I ‘just had a nervous stomach.’ Finally getting a diagnosis of celiac disease was life changing,” Mr. Frolichstein said. “All I needed to do was adjust my diet! Not until we were in production on ‘The Celiac Project’ did I realize how many people were actually suffering from this disease, including my own loved ones.”
As gluten-free options gain prominence on store shelves and restaurant menus, going gluten free can easily be perceived as a fad diet or a mere lifestyle choice, but for those with celiac disease, it is a prerequisite to staying healthy.
There is no pharmaceutical cure for the autoimmune disease that damages the small intestine following ingestion of wheat, barley, rye and some oats.
“The Celiac Project” demystifies the need for gluten-free options, encourages individuals to seek testing and has the ability to transform the health care industry.
“I set out to make this film to help others understand the seriousness of celiac disease,” Mr. Frolichstein said. “We hope this film will lead to an increase in the rate of testing so that fewer people have to suffer.”