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Ask the Doc: Is working in a bakery bad for celiac?

Posted on November 7th, 2009 by Alison Read 1 Comment - Add Your Own »

questionmarkgreen1.jpg Q. I am a bakery manager. Last month I tested positive on the celiac blood tests. My father has been diagnosed with celiac, has both genes associated with the disease, as well as lactose and soy allergies now. I have had diarrhea for about a year and a half. My CBC didn’t show much to worry about but I was a little low on vitamin D, not dangerously so, just none stored up.

In my bakery I don’t actually work with the flour, but the bakery is an open environment. We also have  a cake decorating area and a coffee bar, where I generally work, about 30-90 feet away from the dough prep area. Is it possible that I will still be able to continue working in the facility as long as I wash my hands frequently, wear a mask when I am within 5 feet of dough prep area?

I am very concerned because I have been in the bakery industry my entire adult life, it is what I know. I started when I was 18 am now 39. The first 16 years were spent in a bakery that worked with frozen dough the one I currently manage is a full scale mostly scratch bakery. My plan was to see how an exclusive gluten free diet worked and if that did not change my symptoms and reduce my numbers then I would HAVE to consider a career change. However the more I read the more fearful I become that it is inevitable that I will have to change my job.

Do you have any advice or similar case examples you may be willing to share?

A. You need to get a biopsy, to assess the extent of your celiac disease: the more advanced the biopsy, the greater need to protect yourself. Gloves and a mask are a good idea.  There is some data on how much gluten will injure a celiac patient, but that data was generated in stable celiacs who have a normal biopsy, and may not apply to your case. I have had two patients who had minimal , and I mean MINIMAL gluten exposure and became symptomatic.  One was a waitress who was exposed to serving bread, buns, toast, pancakes, etc. She even could tell if someone switched the scoop from wheat to her grain bins at Whole Foods. Another patient would get sick just walking near a bakery!!!!

Health and happiness,
Dr. Aron

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  1. Dear Doctor,
    Me and my two girls lived in a house that made us sick(mold) we all got asthma and my little one got pneumonia real bad so we moved from low income housing. We are all lactose intolerant and part Cherokee Indian may contribute to this. I also used to make homemade wheat bread rather then buy store bought. We have been eating gluten free three months m
    Now and our asthma is improving. Although, I have many symptoms of celiac, I have not been tested. I had so much nausea in that house that I even had an ultrasound. I have had loose stools, gloating, endometriosis, infertility, and a horrible itchy rash under my chin, and rosacea, chronic fatigue, diagnosed add three years ago. Also recently put on a high dose of vitamin d as that was found very low.the rash went away when I stopped eating wheat. Although my skin is not completely recovered, the crazy itching is better. My doctor says we have to eat gluten every day again to take the test. I don’t feel up to getting all those awful symptoms back. My twelve year old has extreme fatigue exhaustion and anxiety. I also am exhausted but manage to move when taking add meds. I work in a bakery/ factory and come home smelling strongly like cake. Could I be breathing enough gluten to make me sick and to test positive celiac? Any advice would be appreciated:( also, I am a single parent with no child support and I have lost one job because of my children being sick and they get a lot more sick in school and miss so much that I end up being questioned about it.
    Thank you so much for taking the time to read this.
    Thank you

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