“People with one autoimmune disorder are at risk for developing other autoimmune disorders," Dr. Camacho said. “This was extremely apparent with the Bobel family where we saw more than one disorder in each family member we treated."
Bobel’s daughter Kim Lewis, 47, learned that she had celiac disease and vitamin D deficiency after she stopped absorbing her medication for hypothyroidism. She has since switched to a gluten-free diet and has started taking calcium, magnesium and vitamin D supplements. These lifestyle changes have allowed her to ward off osteoporosis. However, Lewis continues to get screened yearly for the disease and quarterly for her other autoimmune disorders.
“It is critical to get checked for celiac disease at an early age if you have a family history of this disorder and osteoporosis," Lewis said. “Doctors caught my various autoimmune disorders early and have been able to prevent osteoporosis from developing as a result. Now I have to educate my daughters and nieces about these conditions to help them protect their health."
Lewis’ niece Nicole Gaynor, 31, was diagnosed with celiac disease in the last year after she experienced prolonged symptoms of bloating. Dr. Camacho was concerned that she wasn’t properly absorbing the nutrients in her food, so she worked with a team of Loyola gastrointestinal specialists and confirmed that Gaynor had the disease. Gaynor has since made rigorous diet changes that have stopped her celiac disease from progressing. She also has been treated successfully for hypothyroidism and vitamin D deficiency.
“While altering my diet has been challenging, it is much easier than coping with the broken bones that come with osteoporosis," Gaynor said. “I have seen my grandma suffer from the painful side effects of osteoporosis, and I want to prevent that from happening to my other family members and me."