Jennifer Esposito Recalls Being Diagnosed with the ‘Worst Case’ of Celiac Disease

Jennifer Esposito is opening up about being diagnosed with the “worst case” of celiac disease her doctor’s ever seen.

The NCIS actress appeared on the June 11 episode of Christina Applegate and Jamie-Lynn Sigler’s podcast MeSsy and opened up about her lengthy journey toward receiving a proper diagnosis.

The 51-year-old said she grew up seeing someone close to her struggle with illnesses, stress anxiety, panic disorder, bipolar disorder and more — all of which she believed was normal. So, when she started experiencing her own health difficulties, she assumed medication was the only answer.

“I saw it as like, that’s just what you do. Oh, you’re having panic disorder at 12? Take a valium. Stomach issues? Take this and take that,” she explained. “So by the time I was an adult, I thought this stuff was normal. I thought having panic disorder and having panic attacks all the time was normal. I thought my stomach being sick all the time was normal. I thought that sleeping all through lunch was normal. I thought highs and lows and rage, I thought it was normal.” 

“So I either hid it or just dealt with it on my own,” she continued. “But after understanding how deeply ill I was with celiac disease and then seeing my entire world shift… Wow. It was like, oh, I don’t have to live like that.”

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Jennifer Esposito.

Michael Tullberg/Getty

Esposito said she was often dealing with fatigue, hair loss, difficulty walking, vomiting, sinus infections and more. Her health continued to decline until she was in “really bad shape.”

The Blue Bloods star said she saw numerous doctors and “begged” for solutions to her health problems but because she was a woman, she was often told that she’s being dramatic or she’s a hypochondriac. She didn’t receive a diagnosis until her ear, nose and throat specialist recommended her to yet another doctor.

“I sat there and I was broken because it’d be the nth time.” she recalled. “I went to this woman. I told her everything. She said to me, ‘I’m gonna test you for everything. I’m gonna get this, give me a few days.’” 

Esposito said she told herself that if she didn’t receive any answers this time, she would just accept that she’s “crazy.”

“She called me two days later and she said, ‘You have the worst case of celiac disease I think I’ve ever seen. I don’t know how you’re alive.’… I had an answer,” she said. “I had a f—ing answer.”  

Jennifer Esposito.
Jenny Anderson/WireImage

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According to the Celiac Disease Foundation, celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder that negatively affects the way people digest gluten. When a person with celiac disease eats gluten, their body triggers an immune response which can lead to intestinal damage and cause diarrhea, abdominal pain, fatigue, weight loss and vomiting. 

Although there is no cure for it, currently the only treatment is to adopt a strict, lifelong gluten-free diet.

Esposito said that following her diagnosis she was able to “stabilize my gut” by cutting out gluten, dairy, soy, corn, sugar, and more from her diet, boasting that she doesn’t need to take any medications nowadays. 

“I healed my gut,” she said. “I don’t have pain when I wake up. I don’t feel like I’m passing out. My stomach doesn’t hurt. I don’t have panic attacks today.” 

Esposito admitted that her suffering was “too much” before and getting that relief from a diagnosis is why she wrote her book, Jennifer’s Way, about celiac disease journey and opened up her bakery of the same name, which specializes in gluten-free baked goods.

“I couldn’t imagine so many other people and kids and being told they’re crazy or they’re this or they’re that,” she said on the show. “I had a hand in helping so many people.”

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