Sevier County Teen and Family Learn to Live Gluten Free

6 News Anchor/Reporter, Knoxville, TN

SEVIERVILLE (WATE) – Going gluten-free is a diet that’s trending across the country, but for one percent of the population diagnosed with Celiac disease, a gluten-free diet isn’t a fad. It’s a medical necessity.

One Sevier County teen’s diagnosis led the whole family to make major changes in the way they eat.

Celiac is a genetic autoimmune disease that doctors say is under-diagnosed in our country. Lindsey Myers, 15, found out she has the disease when she was in third grade.

The competitive runner and swimmer hasn’t let it get her down, racking up awards and accolades even while battling terrible symptoms if she ate anything containing gluten.

“I always would either throw up, pass out, or my stomach would hurt,” Lindsey said.

Lindsey’s grandmother Julie Roper, who’s raising Lindsey and her 13-year-old sister Kelsie, says before the diagnosis, Lindsey had some baffling symptoms.

“She couldn’t sit still in school, and she had trouble with bowel movements, stomach aches, some headaches,” Roper recalled.

Gluten is a protein found in wheat, rye, barley, malt and often, oats. In patients like Lindsey, those ingredients cause inflammation in the lower bowel and prevent her from absorbing vital nutrients.

Dr. Youhanna Al-Tawil, a pediatric gastroenterologist at Children’s Hospital, diagnosed Lindsey’s problem.

“There is no medical treatment for it. The only treatment is strict, lifelong gluten-free diet,” he explained.

Dr. Al-Tawil put Lindsey’s mind at ease.

“He was like, everything will be okay. You’ll learn really quickly. It won’t be hard. He just kind of encouraged me to keep up with it,” said Lindsey.

Julie Roper set out to learn all she could about gluten-free foods for her granddaughter, finding there are specialty items like ice cream cones, bread mix, sauces and chips, and even brownies that Lindsey can enjoy, in addition to healthy foods.

Reading labels is a must because ingredients often change.

“So you might be able to have one kind of chip for a month, and then they change the ingredients, and the next month you can’t have them,” Roper said.

The whole family is gluten free to keep all traces of wheat out of the house, lowering the chance of cross-contamination, which would make Lindsey sick.
Her sister Kelsie, who is not gluten intolerant, doesn’t seem to mind.

“The food is a lot better and it’s more healthy for you, so I really don’t think I’m missing out on anything,” said Kelsie.

Gluten free vendor fair

Celi-Act, a support group for families affected by gluten intolerance, is hosting a Gluten Free Vendor Fair on Saturday, May 31, 2014 from 10 a.m. yntil 4 p.m. at The Grande Event Center, 5441 Clinton Highway.

The annual fair has grown into one of the largest gluten-free events in North America.

Guest speaks include a dietician, a gastroenterologist and chefs speaking about gluten allergy challenges and solutions. There will be cooking demonstrations with free samples, and a chance to purchase gluten-free items to take home.

The fair will also feature a variety of children’s activities.

Admission is $5 for adults, $3 for children ages 3 to 13, and free admission for children 2 and under.

The Gluten Free Vendor Fair is sponsored by Celi-ACT, GI for Kids, and East Tennessee Children’s Hospital.

For more information about the fair, contact Sandy Altizer at or visit the support group website at