Celiac Disease Plagues 'Blue Bloods' Actress (And 1% of Americans)

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Celiac disease, a disorder of the small intestine, affects as many as one in 105 Americans and causes a host of problems: nausea, abdominal pain, diarrhea. And now, according to one actress, it’s cost her a job.

On Monday, the New York Post’s Page Six reported that Jennifer Esposito’s character, Det. Jackie Curatola, was written out of the CBS police drama “Blue Bloods” after Esposito collapsed on set in August, claiming she was being overworked.

Esposito said on Twitter that the network ignored her doctor’s recommendation for a reduced schedule.

“CBS didn’t listen to my doc and I collapsed on set… After a week off my doc said I could return to work but CBS Implied that I was NOT truly ill and this was a scheme to get a raise!” the actress tweeted.  

Esposito is the founder of a charity called Jennifer’s Way Foundation for Celiac Education and, like many suffers of the condition, is limiting the amount of gluten in her diet. Gluten can be found in wheat, barley, rye, and some kinds of oats. Safe foods for a gluten-free diet include corn, rice, millet, quinoa and sorghum.

“Before being diagnosed with celiac disease, I would go on spontaneous vacations, stop in a deli to grab something or try a new restaurant without a thought,” she said in an interview with the website SheKnows. “Now, every piece of food must be interrogated, so to speak.”

The exact cause of celiac disease is unknown, but doctors know that in patients, eating gluten can damage the lining of the small intestine and prevent a person’s body from absorbing nutrients in food. The specific mechanism that occurs is triggered by a gluten protein called gliadin, which prompts a patient’s immune system to overreact and provoke an inflammatory response. This inflammatory reaction disrupts the tiny structures on a person’s intestinal lining called villi.

There is no cure for celiac disease, but symptoms can be eliminated or controlled by adopting a lifelong gluten-free diet.

One of the first signs of severe celiac disease is pale and greasy feces, along with weight loss, but now many people are screened even before they start developing symptoms. Blood tests can find antibodies called antitissue transglutaminase antibodies or anti-endomysium antibodies that indicate celiac disease. Genetic testing can also indicate whether a person as the HLA-DQ2 or HLA-DQ8 variants associated with celiac disease, though some people with those genes do not manifest the disease, and about 5% of patients do not have HLA-DQ2 or HLA-DQ8.

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