What did we know about celiac disease in 1953?

The truth is, we knew quite a bit about sensitivity to gluten 65 years ago when Matilda Babbitz’s son Bobby was diagnosed with celiac disease. A nurse by profession, Matilda carefully observed her baby and kept detailed records of his reactions to foods, working with doctors to determine an appropriate diet for Bobby.

Today, the Gluten Free RN is sharing an article published in the March 1953 edition of the American Journal of Nursing written by Matilda herself. She covers how Bobby presented with celiac disease at six months of age and the dramatic change in his health and behavior after a diet change.

Nadine discusses the systematic approach Bobby’s healthcare team took in creating a custom diet, the relationship between the baby’s irritability and his inability to digest food, and his growth and development before and after treatment. She also addresses the misunderstanding that children will ‘grow out of’ celiac disease, explaining that we’ve since learned patients must adhere to a 100% gluten-free diet for life. Listen in for insight around what we can learn from past case studies of celiac disease and understand what we already knew about celiac disease back when Eisenhower was president and Gentlemen Prefer Blondes was on the big screen!

What’s Discussed:

How Bobby presented with celiac disease at six months of age

  • Sudden attack of diarrhea, upper respiratory infection
  • History of GI difficulty + distended abdomen, increased gas
  • Marked irritability, weight loss, inability to move arms/legs

The dramatic change in Bobby’s behavior after a diet change

  • Symptoms of diarrhea, vomiting and weakness disappeared
  • Irritability subsided with shift to skim milk

The new pediatrician’s approach when Bobby’s progress stalled

  • Shift to goat’s milk, added complete multivitamin supplement

The relationship between irritable behavior and the inability to digest foods

  • Nurse/mom kept detailed records of foods eaten, reactions

Bobby’s growth and development before and after diagnosis

  • Lost ability to perform gross motor activity prior to diagnosis
  • Caught up with age group after diet change (walked at 18 months)

How Bobby’s mother dealt with social pressure to eat with others

  • Replaced cookies and ice cream with sherbet and lollipops
  • Kept away from parties so not conscious of being left out

The chronic nature of celiac disease

  • No one ‘grows out of’ being celiac
  • 100% gluten-free diet for life

Nadine’s insight around what we knew about celiac disease in 1953

  • Many celiac patients unable to digest cow’s milk
  • Need supplementation with vitamins, certain fats
  • Recognized impairment of immune system

Resources

‘Bobby Has Celiac Disease’ in the American Journal of Nursing

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Dough Nation: A Nurse’s Memoir of Celiac Disease from Missed Diagnosis to Food and Heal

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Posted by Nadine Grzeskowiak, RN

Nadine is a 'food is medicine’ activist and is very proud of her work to educate all people about the power of food in health and wellness. Nadine is an expert consultant, professional speaker with over 1500 lectures to date, author of DOUGH NATION: A Nurse's Memoir of Celiac Disease From Missed Diagnosis to Food and Health Activism, podcaster, mom and former emergency/trauma/critical care nurse. Nadine is co-authoring her next book on the science of celiac disease.

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