Arrow-right Camera
The Spokesman-Review Newspaper

The Spokesman-Review Newspaper The Spokesman-Review

Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
Clear Night 10° Clear
News >  Features

Doctors learning celiac disease affects millions

Joe Graedon and Teresa Graedon The Spokesman-Review

Q. I have been diagnosed with celiac disease. One of the early symptoms was leg and foot cramps, often screamers, early in the morning. The tonic water was by my bed at all times, just in case, as it would provide quick relief. Mustard helps too, if nothing else is available.

I started taking extra calcium, magnesium and zinc to prevent the cramps. That helped, but it wasn’t until I went on a gluten-free diet that I found reliable relief.

I was diagnosed with celiac disease by finally becoming anemic due to improper absorption of iron. The person who wrote to you about terrible leg cramps should be checked for this possibility. Celiac disease reduces normal absorption of a lot of necessary minerals.

A. Thanks for sharing your story. Doctors are discovering that celiac disease is not nearly as rare as they once thought. It occurs in almost 1 percent of the population, which means millions of people are affected.

Celiac disease is an inability to digest gluten, a protein found in barley, rye and wheat. When people with celiac disease eat foods with gluten, their bodies react and cause damage to the lining of the small intestine. This can interfere with the absorption of many crucial nutrients.

To learn more about the subtle symptoms, diagnosis and treatment of celiac disease, readers can request a CD of our radio show on the topic. It is an hour-long interview with one of the country’s leading experts. For a copy, please send $16 to: Graedons’ People’s Pharmacy, Dept. CD-594, P.O. Box 52027, Durham, NC 27717.

Q. I read that Proscar and Avodart both cause impotence. My boyfriend is on Proscar and recently said he would rather have a backrub than sex! He used to worship me, and now we are just pen pals. He still seems to like me, but there is no sexual component.

According to his doctor, my friend has the smallest prostate he’s ever seen. Why do the doctors want to shrink it to nothing? Is it sex or death? If I had a choice like that to make, I’d go for sex. I’m only 74, and he is younger.

I have heard that it is possible for healthy people to have sex for life. Maybe some men are too embarrassed to discuss this subject with their doctor. I still think there should be a way to get around this side effect. Would it help if he didn’t take the pill for the weekend?

A. Drugs like Avodart and Proscar shrink the prostate by altering testosterone metabolism. This can lead to reduced libido and erectile dysfunction. Although impotence may be treated with medications like Viagra or Cialis, there is no approved remedy for low libido.

It is not clear that a “drug holiday” on weekends would restore his sex drive. He might ask his doctor whether a lower dose might solve the libido problem and still protect his prostate.

Q. I have tried many statin drugs for cholesterol, but all gave me muscle pain and cramps. My doctor put me on Zetia and insists it can’t cause muscle pain since it is not absorbed into the bloodstream. I still have muscle pain, cramps and tingling in my legs and feet. Can Zetia cause this?

A. Although Zetia works differently from statin cholesterol-lowering drugs such as Lipitor or Zocor, it is absorbed into the bloodstream. Muscle side effects seem to be less common with Zetia than with statin drugs, but they can happen. Ask about another approach for cholesterol control.

The Spokesman-Review Newspaper

Local journalism is essential.

Give directly to The Spokesman-Review's Northwest Passages community forums series -- which helps to offset the costs of several reporter and editor positions at the newspaper -- by using the easy options below. Gifts processed in this system are not tax deductible, but are predominately used to help meet the local financial requirements needed to receive national matching-grant funds.

Active Person

Subscribe now to get breaking news alerts in your email inbox

Get breaking news delivered to your inbox as it happens.