MOUNT VERNON — Four years ago, at the age of 6, Twin Oak fourth-grader Lauren Keaton was diagnosed with celiac disease. Grocery shopping, food preparation and eating out suddenly became much more complicated for her and her family.
Celiac disease is a genetic disorder characterized by gluten intolerance, the inability to consume anything containing wheat, rye, oats or barley. Eating those grains can cause small intestine damage and affect the villi, which absorb nutrients. The symptoms of celiac disease include diarrhea, malabsorption, gas, bloating and vomiting.
Lauren’s father, Cameron Keaton, said they first noticed symptoms at the dinner table when Lauren was a 6-year-old.
“As soon as she started eating,” he said, “she would complain she couldn’t eat her food. Well, you think ‘a typical 6-year-old, they just don’t want to eat.’ So, being a good parent, I made her eat her food. Ten or 15 minutes later she would have a stomach ache and have to go lie down.”
After blood tests were performed, the family found out Lauren has celiac disease.
“It is not like an allergy,” Lauren explained. “It won’t get better. I cannot have any gluten at all. At school I have to pack a lunch every day. If a friend offers me a cookie, I have to tell them I can’t have it. At parties when people bring in cupcakes, sometimes, if my teacher knows before hand, she will tell us how my mom makes gluten-free cupcakes.”