While JFK and celiac disease may seem like incongruous topics, it appears there may have been a strong connection. Did you know that many historians and medical researchers now believe former United States president John F. Kennedy likely suffered from celiac disease? So, did JFK have celiac disease?
Much of this didn’t become public until long after his tragic assassination in 1963, but as a child, JFK suffered from weight problems, growth problems and chronic gastrointestinal pain and distress. His childhood reads like a textbook listing of gluten intolerance symptoms.
Later in life, he struggled to maintain his weight as he suffered from severe abdominal cramps and chronic diarrhea. He also suffered from migraines and early osteoporosis, which led to chronic back pain. In case you don’t know, all of these are signs of celiac disease.
In addition, he was diagnosed with two different autoimmune diseases. First he was diagnosed with Addison’s Disease, a rare endocrine disorder, but one which we now know has a very high correlation with celiac disease. Then he was diagnosed with another autoimmune condition: Hashimoto’s disease, or hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid). Hypothyroidism also has a very high correlation with celiac disease. Because of the presence of two different endocrine problems, some have conjectured that he might have suffered from autoimmune polyendocrine syndrome type 2 (APS 2).
Despite these diagnoses and others, treatment didn’t seem to provide relief to the 35th president of the United States… which leads to conjecture as to whether there was another cause behind all these attempted diagnoses. Even today it is not uncommon for it to take several years to diagnose celiac dsease.
Medical researchers sifting through his medical records describe what they find as a mirror image of modern patients suffering from undiagnosed celiac disease. Despite having experienced a wide range of treatments and diagnoses, it appears JFK experienced what many of us have experienced until we were finally diagnosed: one tentative diagnosis after another in an effort to resolve his misery. These diagnoses included irritable bowel syndrome and spastic colitis, which are common misdiagnoses associated with celiac disease.
In addition, autoimmune disorders run in the Kennedy family. As regular readers should know by now, celiac disease is an autoimmune disease, not a food allergy, and when a person develops one autoimmune disease he or she has a much higher risk of developing other autoimmune diseases.
Unfortunately, as celiac disease was far less understood during his lifetime, John F. Kennedy never obtained the blood tests or intestinal biopsy that would have revealed his celiac disease, and thus he was never prescribed a gluten-free diet to help him combat and relieve most — if not all — of his symptoms.