Celebrities Gluten Free Diet Or Celiac? - The Pro Athlete Series

It would seem there is a fascination within the gluten free community to do with celebrities and figuring out whether they eat gluten free out of necessity or out of dietary choice. This growing fascination with gluten free is born not only from having the ability to empathize with someone famous who is like us, it is also a hope that the community has for Celiac and other illnesses cured by a gluten free diet to become center stage for the world to take note.

All analysis aside over why we are GF Celebrity crazy, the reality is that you can find lists of celebrities all over the internet. Most of the lists are very similar, which may have a star or two who have not been outed somewhere else. However, as the diagnosis rates climb, there are more of them coming out of the gluten free closet with regularity. Recently an article claimed there must be a celebrity Celiac epidemic and in fact, there were so many new ones that our list got quite long.

Instead of giving you this long list which is copied from the latest update - I thought it would be good for those of us too old to know some of the younger ones and vice versa to have a more comprehensive list that tells you tidbits and back up referencing for the claim that they have Celiac, gluten intolerance, gluten allergy, etc. Because of the extra information given, the list will be broken up into categories in order for this post not to be several pages long.

To make it interesting, we will start with the latest pro athletes:

Athletes Who Have Celiac Disease

Mickey Redmond - former top pro hockey player, now does sports commentary for Fox Sports Detroit. Redmond is another one of the celebrities who has been diagnosed with celiac disease. His desire to stick to his gluten-free diet has put a crimp on his professional life. He either had to bring his own hot plate, utensils and gluten-free food and prepare it himself or not travel with the team on their road trips.

Rich Gannon's (former NFL Quarterback for Oakland Raiders)  daughter was diagnosed with Celiac. On August 6, 2005, Gannon officially retired from football and joined CBS television as an NFL analyst. He retired as an Oakland Raider and was inducted into the University of Delaware athletics hall of fame the same year. The Gannons are big supporters of research for the disease by hosting a Celiac Walk at Holy Family Catholic High School in Victoria, Minnesota. You may have heard of Danielle's Decadent chocolate cake mix, it is named after his daughter. Gluten Free Pantry purchased the company and this mix has become their very popular Decadent Chocolate Cake Mix.

Carrie Willoughby (Paralympic Swimmer) was born legally blind and with oculocutaneous albinism, a disorder where there is not any pigment in her skin, eyes and hair. Despite these challenges, she has won numerous medals, including two bronze medals at the 2002 World Championships in Argentina; a bronze medal at the 2003 World Championship in Canada; a silver medal in the 2003 Can Am championships in Canada; one silver and two bronze medals at the 2007 Pan Am games in Brazil; and five gold medals at 2009 IBSA Pan Am games In Colorado. She also holds the American record in the 50 meter butterfly event. She also is active in bringing awareness to her illness by speaking and making appearances like at the CDF(Celiac Disease Foundation) 201 Conference.
“It has been four years since my diagnosis. My greatest challenge is the lack of knowledge about celiac disease. It is still uncomfortable to see others struggle to accommodate my gluten-free diet. After a hard workout I have to find the energy to cook a well balanced meal because I can’t just stop to pick something up from a restaurant. Being legally blind also hinders my ability to read ingredient labels. I stay strict to the gluten-free diet, but inevitably digest gluten on occasion.” (Team Gluten Free)

Amy Yoder Begley (Competed in Beijing Olympics as a runner) “I spent 10 years getting misdiagnosed. Finally when I could no longer live like that I found someone who took me seriously. I could not run more than 30 minutes without using the bathroom. I could not eat within 6 hours of running races. Due to years of not knowing I had Celiac Disease, I now have some health problems like osteopenia (pre-cursor to osteoporosis).   But after 3 years of being gluten-free, I started to see major changes in my health and body. For me, I started to feel better three weeks after going gluten-free. The bloating went down and I felt more comfortable.
However, my best improvement marker came two and half years after being gluten-free; I made the Olympic Team!  I represented the United States in the 10,000 meters in Beijing.  Now I get asked about eating and training gluten-free.  I wanted to put out this guide to Celiac or gluten intolerant athletes of all abilities.  Once you get your health restored with a gluten-free diet you can accomplish any goal you set your heart and mind to!” (from her web page section “Gluten Free Page” where she also has an inspirational story posted “Celiac Olympian”, tips on eating out, and keeping fit on GF)

Sarah Jane Smith (LPGA) In 2002 Sarah won both the Australian Junior Championship and the Queensland Junior Championship, and was ranked the top junior in Australia that year. She went on to be the top-ranked amateur in 2003.
Sarah seemed unstoppable, but en route to her receiving a card on the 2008 LPGA, she began experiencing abdominal pain, constipation and uncharacteristic fatigue. Sarah feared the worst and worried she may be following in her mother’s footsteps and developing Celiac’s disease.
In addition to spending her days on the links, Sarah is working to raise awareness for the disease as an ambassador for the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness. “It’s so important for people to understand this is something they can take control of. Celiac disease doesn’t have to control you,” she says.

Desiree Ficker - Triathlete - I have been gluten-free since the winter of 2006 after a terrible year of stomach issues during my training and racing. I actually had years of stomach issues and always attributed it to others things...overtraining, "something in the water", even too much fiber! Since eliminating gluten from my diet I have been much healthier and my racing has gone so much better. I still struggle with eating out and giving into temptation every once in a while, only to realize that I must stick to my diet in order to be healthy. This off season I am working on baking new gluten-free breads and treats. A gluten free diet doesn't always have to be a downer!

My favorite foods while training and racing: Accelerade, LaraBars, Trail mix, Cornnuts, Food For Life rice bread (breakfast before rides and runs) with                                           Justin's Nut Butter

Cedric Benson  - NFL running back for the Cincinnati Bengals After a less than stellar career with the Chicago Bears and the Texas Longhorns, Cedric Benson was diagnosed with Celiac disease. When he began playing with the Bengals, his new diet helped spring him back into a professional career with healthy energy levels and catapulted his career back into full swing.

Clint Trickett, Florida State Seminoles’  backup quarterback reportedly couldn't put pounds on his 6-foot-1 frame no matter how hard he tried. He weighed 155 pounds when he enrolled 21 months ago and is 180 now. After a round of medical tests over the summer, Trickett was diagnosed with Celiac disease. "I had some blood work done, I had a biopsy," Trickett said this week. "And they said, 'You have Celiac disease.' And it started making sense." Trickett changed his diet and in a month started to see results. "You just have to stay away from any kind of breaded food," Trickett said. "Already I've seen two pounds a week gained. I've been putting on pounds ever since I changed, so I think it's just going to continue." 

Athletes Who Have Gluten/ Wheat Allergy Or Intolerance

Drew Brees (NFL Quarterback for the New Orleans Saints) is gluten intolerant but does not have celiac disease. According to Sports Illustrated, Brees's long list of food allergies includes dairy, wheat, gluten, eggs and nuts.

Hayley Turner (English Flat Racing Jockey)” I'm allergic to beer, which is a shame. I've got this thing called celiac disease. Beer's got yeast in it so I can't drink it, which is a bit of a blessing for my weight probably. Getting wheat-free sandwiches isn't easy, but the bread that doesn't have wheat in it tastes awful anyway, so I tend to go without.” (Guardian. Uk )

Discovering he has a gluten protein allergy has been the best thing to happen to tennis star Novak Djokovic. Since swearing off pizza, pretzels and beer, the celebrated athlete has ruled the court.

Raul Ibanez –The Philadelphia Phillies Outfielder talked in an interview, "They used to believe it was 90% training and 10% nutrition, and now they believe it may be 90% nutrition and 10% training," he told CSN Philly. "That's how big a deal it is."

Sabine Lisicki – The German tennis pro collapsed on the court in the 2011 French Open due to what she says is gluten intolerance and did not mention celiac.

Terra Castro – Triathelete - says going gluten-free was key for helping her go pro. "Before I was diagnosed with an intolerance, I felt tired all the time," she said. "It would take me forever to recover." Now she fuels up with quinoa and rice-based breads and pastas. Fellow pro triathlete and celiac sufferer Desiree Ficker said she knows she has to avoid wheat to stay competitive. "After trying several brands, I've found many gluten-free breads and cereals that I like. I also eat more rice and sweet potatoes and bake my own treats," Ficker said. "It's only hard when I'm traveling because airports don't have a lot of options." 

Stay tuned for more in the R.O.C.K. GF Celebrity Series...

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*Information on our site and shared by members of our support forums is not intended to be medical advice or to replace the relationship between a patient and his/her physician*