British Reality TV Star Megan McKenna. Source: Now Magazine. http://keyassets-p2.timeincuk.net/wp/prod/wp-content/uploads/sites/30/2017/03/Megan-McKenna-feat.jpg
Megan McKenna: A Celebrity Celiac Patient
Megan McKenna is a famous English reality TV personality and a talented country singer. Just like many other celebrities, she also had humble beginnings. As a teen she always loved theater and music and eventually signed herself up in an arts and theater school. While she played the violin, she was determined to improve her singing as well. In 2009, Megan, alongside her friend Demi, took a leap of faith as they joined Britain’s Got Talent as a duo. They called their team Harmony. Harmony was lucky enough to reach the semi-finals but did not go through the next round. Though success was elusive at this time, their exposure paved the way for Megan’s blossoming career.
In 2015, Megan appeared in a reality television series called Ex on the Beach which was broadcasted on MTV UK. A year later, she became a household name upon joining the 17th series of Big Brother UK Celebrity Edition. Then in 2017, her career took off to an all new level as she became a main cast in the television series called The Only Way is Essex. In the same year, Megan released her debut album High Heeled Shoes and Far Cry from Love which furthered her success. Today Megan has her own show entitled There’s Something About Megan which is solid proof of her thriving career.
To those who follow Megan’s career over the television or through her music, one might think she already has it all. After all, she only humbly started out as an auditionee in a singing competition and in just eight years she has already become outrageously well-known. Nonetheless, despite all her successes and a promising career ahead of her, Megan is actually fighting her own battle.
About two months ago, Megan uploaded skinny pictures of herself on Instagram. The pictures shocked her followers and triggered negative commentaries as she was not always that thin. The bashers especially made a lot of fuss about the pictures and threw accusations at Megan saying she was an anorexic. They furthered the offense by labeling her as a ‘skinny rat’. They eventually began body-shaming and bullying Megan. Little did they know of what she has been going through.
So what’ up with Megan? Did she become too body conscious and turned into an anorexic over time? A quick answer to this query is ‘No’. In truth, she was recently diagnosed with Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), a result of her Celiac Disease which she started having as a child. In fact, Megan has always been open to the public regarding her condition. Back in 2015, she revealed that her greatest secret to a well-shaped body is her gluten intolerance. She explained that because of this, she has to set strict regulations to her food consumption. She eats spinach in most of her meals and takes vitamins all the time. She learned to live a gluten-free life and remained strong-hearted despite her condition. Only this time, her condition seemed to take a toll on her again as she developed IBS and had to go in and out of the hospital. In fact, some of her skinny pictures were photos taken from the hospital.
Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) versus Celiac
Megan is a Celiac patient but her skinny figure was due to her recent diagnosis - Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). What then is the relation between the two conditions?
IBS is a digestive disorder which affects the colon also known as the large intestine. When food is consumed, the colon acts up and becomes ‘irritable’, thus the name. The patient experiences one or a combination of the following IBS symptoms: bloating, constipation, gas and abdominal pain, and diarrhea. On the other hand, celiac is so much more serious and is a matter of the small intestine instead of the colon. In addition, the symptoms are not only digestive in nature. Some examples of these non-digestive symptoms are heartburn, joint pain, balance problems, anemia, and blisters.
The line that separates IBS from Celiac is very thin. In fact, many misdiagnosed IBS cases are actually Celiac cases. Also, some Celiac patients encounter IBS symptoms. Not to mention that gluten sensitivity is not always a Celiac case too. One thing is for sure, there are available tests for Celiac whereas there is not a single one for IBS. Experts simply rule out all other factors when testing IBS which is the usual reason for misdiagnoses. In the case of Megan McKenna who has previously been diagnosed with Celiac Disease, her IBS is just another symptom of her Celiac.
According to studies, gluten sensitivity affects IBS. A study with a certain group of IBS patients is one proof for this. Its participants underwent a celiac genetic test and a celiac blood test. In addition, all went for a gluten-free diet during testing period. Results show that 60% of these patients were positive for both tests while 12% were negative for both. Interestingly, all patients had improved or completely relieved themselves of IBS with their gluten-free diet.
Another research tested 34 patients with IBS. The control group of 19 patients consumed gluten while the other 15 patients had a non-gluten diet for six weeks. It was observed that IBS patients who consumed gluten foods experienced more exhaustion, diarrhea, pain, bloating and constipation after one week. This means that the symptoms of IBS were worse when the patients had gluten. This tells that gluten is a factor in IBS, at least in part.
The further implication of the aforementioned studies is for IBS patients, with or without Celiac, to still opt for a diet free from gluten as the practice can alleviate the symptoms of IBS. Therefore, Megan McKenna, or any other Celiac patient, should be consistent with her gluten-free diet if she is to recover from IBS.
Being More Supportive to Celiac Patients
To date, there is still no known cure for Celiac Disease as the real culprit is still unknown. We do know that gluten contained in wheat, barley, and rye can trigger its symptoms and that removing gluten in the daily diet is still the best precursor to relief. However, as to what really causes it is a matter still subject for research. Reports of patients suffering its physical effects and breaking down because of not knowing where their lives are headed to certainly tell us the most important thing— Celiac is not only a physical condition, it is a mental and social condition too.
As Megan said in an interview, people need to know that the disease will stay with her forever. Instead of bashing or criticizing the patients in any way, people should support them instead as it is a serious and life-changing condition. In fact, she is not the only one that needs support. In the United States alone, there are 25 to 45 million sufferers. In other words, there are already too many people suffering from the disease. More than anything, these patients need motivation and support.