Gluten Intolerant Patient Receives Expert Care at UMCH

A reaction to gluten can occur at any age. While the majority of the patients at the University of Maryland Children’s Hospital are indeed children, the office serves a numerous adult population as well. An increasing number of patients, like Lou Cerreta of Owings Mills, are developing symptoms of gluten intolerance later on in life.

lou cerreta gluten intolerance patient umch gastroenterology 3Lou was 79 years old when he started feeling increasingly bloated and gassy after eating. He was suspicious of his diet, so he consulted a gastroenterologist (someone who specializes in the digestive system). After the consultation, the doctor concluded that Lou had symptoms consistent with acid reflux and he was sent him home.

However, after taking medicine for acid reflux, the symptoms wouldn’t go away. It wasn’t until a trip to a local grocery store, where a local author was handing out literature about celiac disease, that Lou learned about gluten allergies and intolerances. The pamphlets outlined characteristic symptoms of all three conditions; all of which matched up with what Lou was experiencing.

After that shopping trip, Lou decided to completely cut gluten out of his diet.

His symptoms went away almost immediately, and he thought he was cured! His family was excited, yet they still had questions—did Lou actually have celiac disease? In order to find out for sure, Lou saw another doctor for a blood test. He had to temporarily eat gluten again to see if his body was producing gluten antibodies (immune system proteins that are created when gluten is present, and cause symptom flare ups).

Lou’s Almost Famous Sweet Potato Muffins | Recipe

  • ¾ cup milk
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 ½ cups sweet potato puree
  • 1 cup oat flour
  • ¾ cup almond flour
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1 tsp. ginger powder
  • ¼ tsp. salt
  • ½ tsp. baking powder
  • ½ tsp. baking soda
  • Maple syrup (optional)


  1. Mix together the milk, eggs and sweet potato puree. Mix in the oat flour, almond flour, cinnamon, ginger powder, salt, baking powder and baking soda.
  2. Pour mixture into 12 greased muffin cups and bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes. Best served warm with maple syrup.

The Diagnosis?

The blood test found that Lou did not have celiac disease. However, he did have symptom relief when gluten was eliminated, suggesting he has gluten intolerance. At this time, there are no blood tests to formally diagnose someone with gluten intolerance. In fact, diagnosis occurs with trial and error. While he does not have celiac disease (an autoimmune disease), he does have to avoid eating gluten of any kind. For some people, this dietary restriction can feel very restrictive, but Lou embraced the challenge! His love of cooking only grew as he learned to make gluten-free swaps in his favorite recipes, including one for sweet potato muffins.

Although Lou was doing a great job of managing his gluten intolerance on his own, he wanted some more support. After attending a UMCH celiac and gluten sensitivity seminar and listening to our experts’ presentations, he made an appointment for an annual checkup. The take home message from the seminar, when seeing patients similar to Lou, was to not start a gluten free diet without undergoing to the proper work up for celiac disease.

“At least I was talking to somebody who knew something about what my problem was,” Lou said. “Dr. Blanchard and the dietitian were very comforting and knowledgeable. Anyone who thinks they might have an issue should go to the Celiac Program at the Children’s Hospital!”


To make an appointment, call: 410-328-6749 or email: [email protected]