This weekend’s race is crucial for marathoner Martin Fagan.  He could become the first Irish athlete to qualify for the World Championships, a goal that was in doubt not long ago when he was suffering from undiagnosed celiac disease. IrishTimes.com reported today about Fagan’s challenges and road to recovery — a story line many celiac athletes have experienced.

In early 2008 he qualified for the Beijing Olympics, but since then he’s dealt with injuries and stomach pain then once he was diagnosed with celiac, went gluten-free, he began to recover.

“It had been getting more and more frustrating, not really knowing what the problem was….so much so that I actually felt like quitting the sport altogether. But being told I was celiac and making the necessary changes to my diet has made all the difference, and I really feel like I can give the marathon a good shot again.”  Martin Fagan to IrishTimes.com

He will compete in the Chevron Houston Marathon on Sunday with the goal of running a marathon in less than 2 hours 16 minutes.  2:16:00 is the qualifying time for World Championships in Daegu, Korea.  He also hopes to compete in the London Olympics in 2012.

Celiac Disease Symptoms can Really Impact Athletes

For regular folks just trying to get through the day living with the symptoms of celiac disease is tough enough.  Professional and  amateur athletes (and other extremely active/competitive folks) really can get hit hard with this disease if it goes undiagnosed for too long. The IrishTimse.com explained Fagan’s “stomach [problems]…. seriously affected both his racing and recovery [from other injuries].”  Someone like Fagan who qualified for the Olympics can suddenly struggle when their nutrition is not being taken in because of malabsorption from celiac.

The National Foundation for Celiac Awareness tracks athletes with celiac disease.  High school tennis player Brooke Ferslov-Jensen is a high school phenom and recently was named Girls Tennis Athlete of the Year by her local paper in Southern California.  But according to the NFCA and VV Daily Press, when she was battling celiac disease symptoms she left the sport completely because she was so sick.  After being diagnosed and going gluten free, she is back on the court and doing great!

And back in 2009, I talked with Patricia Johnsen (now Brownwell– congratulations!) who is a triathlete with both celiac disease and diabetes.  She complained of major stomach pain, poor tooth enamel and then also had some bone fractures.  All improved on the gluten-free diet. She even finished an Ironman in 2009!  Read more about Patricia here.

Also in 2009 I wrote an article on celiac athletes— which concluded with research saying as soon as celiac athletes go gluten-free there is no reason why they should be able to compete at the high caliber level they were at before celiac symptoms took over.  So don’t let a celiac diagnosis ever get you down..because as long as you stay gluten free you will have good luck with being active, no matter which level you’re at!

Good luck to Martin on Sunday, January 30th!!!!

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