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Meet Anthony: Adapting to life with Celiac Disease

Meet Anthony: Adapting to life with Celiac Disease

Anthony Bruno is a typical eight-year-old boy who finds joy playing baseball and riding bikes to the playground. However, Anthony’s recent diagnosis with Celiac Disease causes him to face new dietary challenges head on, showing his incredible strength at such a young age.

Anthony doesn’t let this diagnosis keep him from enjoying the sweet things in life. Instead, he has learned to navigate a different approach when he is offered cake or pizza at a birthday party, or even king cake during Mardi Gras at school. Celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder that causes the body to become intolerant to gluten. In August 2023, the disease came as a surprise to Anthony and his family after he had just started the school year and he started developing GI problems. “He would have diarrhea every day. The pediatrician said it was probably a stomach bug, but it wouldn’t go away,” says Anthony’s Mom, Robyn. After a couple more inconclusive tests and pediatrician visits, they were referred to specialist Dr. Elizabeth McDonough, Pediatric Gastroenterologist at Children’s Hospital New Orleans. 

Their first appointment with Dr. McDonough in November 2023, marked a significant step toward the answer they were looking for. She used the process of elimination to see what could be causing Anthony’s GI issues, asking questions like, “was he around any waterparks, lakes or streams lately?” which prompted Robyn to remember their trip to Margaritaville right before school started. Dr. McDonough tested for Giardia, a parasite that can be found in water, and Celiac Disease- both tests came back positive. Celiac can manifest at any age, triggered by various factors. "Dr. McDonough explained that the Giardia in his system from the waterpark trip kick-started the Celiac," Robyn shares.

Once they had their diagnosis, the Bruno family started making small tweaks to their lifestyle to make any dietary challenges easy for Anthony. “We went through the pantry and tossed out everything that had gluten,” says Robyn. “We are on a clean eating journey and did it with the entire family to make it supportive and easiest for him.” Robyn said, “We found out his diagnosis right before his birthday and wanted to let him enjoy his party and eat what he wanted to, but we ended up making the whole party using gluten free options,” Robyn recalls, “So a few days later when we were ready to go gluten free, we told him he had already been doing it.” Now, the Brunos are totally gluten free.

Anthony’s resilience shines through any obstacles he faces as he and his family embrace a new normal. The Brunos have taken any challenges in stride, allowing Anthony to live as normally as possible without feeling left out or different. “What we have learned is that this journey is all about mindset,” says Robyn, “There are lots of substitutions and gluten free options out there, and I just want him to always feel prepared, and always have a choice when he is put in a situation where he is faced with any sort of dietary challenge.”