Wellesley’s Kristen Whitaker and her young daughter Reagan are featured in an article titled “Good Genes” in the Aug. 20 edition of Time Magazine, which tells of how a genetic test led to their diagnosis of Celiac Disease and gluten intolerance (to read the entire article online you need to be a subscriber or you’ll have to pick up the print edition).
I swapped email with Kristen to learn a bit more:
The Time article is about people delving into their genetic profiles to learn more about their health. What led you to 23andMe? Is this an expensive procedure or something accessible to the typical person?
My primary care doctor, Mark Costa, with Enhanced Medical Care in Newton, recommended that I try 23andme to scan my genetic profile for a myriad of potential health conditions. It cost $299. When I read through my results, it revealed that I was at a significantly increased risk of having Celiac Disease. I’d never even heard of Celiac before. I’d suffered with stomach problems for over ten years and was repeatedly misdiagnosed. With the results of my genetic test, Dr. Costa ordered blood tests which further suggested Celiac and then an endoscopy confirmed it. Because it is genetic, I had my three kids tested and my 5-year old daughter, Reagan, was also positive. She had been falling off the pediatric growth chart and was suffering from severe stomach aches.
Are you largely symptom free now?
Reagan is totally symptom free and is a much happier child since going gluten-free. Her appetite has returned, she has gone through a massive growth spurt and she feels so much better. It’s really amazing. It’s taking longer for me to respond to the diet because I went undiagnosed for so long and the damage done to my body was so severe.
I’m increasingly running into people in town who are gluten intolerant. Did you have any inkling before? Has it been challenging to go gluten-free?
Going gluten-free was easy. For Reagan and I, gluten is toxic. It makes it easy to stay away. It is challenging to eat out however, since most kids’ menus are filled with gluten.
How did Time wind up coming across you?
With Time magazine, it was uncanny timing. I sent an email to 23andme last week, to tell them our story and how our lives have changed for the better since I did that genetic test. Turns out they had a press inquiry two days prior from a Time reporter who was looking for a story just like ours.
Anything else worth noting?
Reagan and I have a motto, we have “Fun without the bun.”