How much can Celiac Disease affect an athlete's performance?

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TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) -- McKenzie and Makayla Stewart are twins who not only share a love for soccer, but a disease that affects their lower intestine.

"Everything really changed," said Makayla.

The biggest change, they say, was to their diet.

"Now at soccer games, since we have two games a day, we usually have to bring extra food for in between games. Or we have to find places that have gluten-free so we can't really eat with the team," said Makayla.

The twins said they were diagnosed in first grade. Their symptoms started with headaches and stomach aches, which started affecting how they played. Now that they're off gluten, the pain has gone away.

Mikayla and McKenzie are just two of many people, athlete and not, who deal with a gluten intolerance. You might even watch one every Sunday during football season.

"Drew Brees out of the New Orleans Saints, he was supposedly diagnosed recently and he's been able to win a Superbowl at that level," said Dr. Peter Loo, a sports medicine physician with St. Francis.

Dr. Loo says despite professional athletes being diagnosed, he hasn't seen many local athletes with Celiac Disease.

"The most important thing is to remain the calorie count, because you don't want a calorie deficit and then have increased risk for bone issues, injuries or fatigue during the endurance races," said Dr. Loo.

A way to avoid those future problems could be eating more snacks throughout the day. Luckily in Topeka, there is place with that fix.

Shana Cakes owner Kelly Dempewolf started her allergy-free bakery in town, in part because she had trouble finding treats for her daughter, who has Celiac.

"There are tons of ways to get carbs. You just have to learn how to blend the right flours and figure out the recipes. The hardest part about it is there's a lot out there that doesn't taste good," said Dempewolf.

Even though Dempewolf receives positive feedback on the taste of her pastries, they, along with a lot of other gluten-free food lack certain vitamins.

The main ones are B-12, Vitamin D and Calcium. Hy-Vee Dietitian Alyssa Gehle says there are ways to compensate.

"Taking just a general multi-vitamin, something more geared towards your age and gender, would be great," said Gehle.

She also recommends checking labels for protein count because you still need about 20 to 30 grams a day.

"I always recommend doing Greek yogurt, cottage cheese or an egg during breakfast," said Gehle.

To give those with a gluten intolerance more information about keeping up with vitamins and protein, Gehle will be speaking with members of "Celiacs helping Celiacs."

The meeting with be on Saturday, June 4 at 10:30 a.m. You can contact the group's president, Sharon Larson, at (785) 608-4002 for more information.