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Blood-drinking and celiac disease?

Note: The following is very tentative, pending further research.

One disease which perhaps can cause a desire to drink blood, at least in some people, is celiac syndrome. Furthermore, in extreme cases, it may cause an inability to consume anything except blood -- which is not true of most real-life vampires (in the sense of people with a craving for blood). Most vampires can eat normal food, too, with no problem.

On Sun Jan 11, 1998, in the newsgroup alt.vampyres, B J Kuehl (bj@csd.uwm.edu), a.k.a. Baby Jinx, wrote in a message "Re: Truthsayers":

In my case, it turned out to be celiac disease, a genetic inability to digest the gluten protein in grains such as wheat, rye, oatmeal and barley. Even small amounts of gluten, which destroys the intestinal lining of those with the celiac condition, resulted in tremendous stomach pains, back pains, and mood swings. In addition, because the lining of my intestines was so f**ked up and unable to properly absorb nutrients, I was rapidly becoming more and more anemic. Because, when my intestines DID absorb something, it was often in undigested form, I was developing allergies to milk products and other complex proteins. About the only thing I could properly digest was meat... the more raw the better... and I was even losing the ability to do that. What was left but blood and water?

Visits to the doctor brought me nothing but laughs at how it was all psychosomatic or that I was suffering from 'medical student's disease' (medical students contract everything they read about, doncha know).

Inbetween my bouts of diarrhea, stomach pain and manic depression, I kept at it... searching for the answer. If I had focused on only the blood craving and decided to play vampire and ascribe my condition to a retrovirus, I'd probably be dead now. Instead, I researched and tested and researched some more. Even after I hit on the real cause (celiac syndrome), it took over a year of changing my diet (totally eliminating all grains except for corn and rice while learning how to eat healthfully with what foods were left) before I finally became able to digest foods properly, to lose the cravings (although I still eat raw meat), and for the emotional roller coaster to stabilize.

Apparently, though, blood-craving is not a typical celiac disesae symptom. Neither blood-craving nor any other kind of food craving is listed, for example, among the symptoms on the FAQ on Scott Adams' Celiac support page -- which, however, does state: "The amazing thing about celiac disease is that no two individuals who have it seem to have the same set of symptoms or reactions." See also Celiac disease: signs and symptoms in the Merck Manual.

In alt.vampyres, I asked BJ whether she knew anyone else, besides herself, for whom a craving for blood was one of the symptoms of celiac disease. I also asked if this was mentioned in any medical studies that she knew of. BJ replied, in a Jan 17 1998 message "Re: To BJ: gluten intolerance":

I know of no one else who has celiac disease other than those who post to a celiac listserve to which I used to belong. I have never asked anyone else if they drank blood.

I gave up reading the medical studies when I realized that they mostly concentrated on giving gluten to subjects in order to determine an average level of tolerance, on doing followup studies to see how many celiacs actually stick with their diet or how many die of bowel cancer, or whether or not distilled grain vinegar contains gluten in any measurable amount.

I simply stay away from gluten, make my own vinegar, and most of the time I don't even concern myself with the fact that I have a problem. My guts are healthy, and my diet works.

She then posted the following addendum:

This is an afterthought. It might behoove you to define what you mean by 'craving', that is, the psychological and/or physiological mechanisms behind the behavior of 'craving'.

I used the term in its pedestrian sense, much as anyone might says, "I've got a craving for a Reese's peanut butter cup."

But what does this word 'craving' actually mean? Perhaps

  1. I'd like to be enjoying the taste of a Reese's PB cup at this moment in time?
  2. I saw someone eating a Reese's PB cup and now I can't get them out of my mind?
  3. I happen to like Reese's PB cups and haven't had one in a while?
  4. I have a protein deficiency which causes me to 'crave' proteins such as peanuts?
  5. I have a psychological disorder whereby I eat a whole bag of Reese's PB cups in one sitting and then go barf them up?
  6. I spend all my waking hours fantasizing about Reese's PB cups and get really upset if there isn't one in the house.
  7. I want A Reese's PB cup so badly that I will literally take a knife to someone in order to get it.

A 'craving', to me, in a more than pedestrian sense, means that I feel a great need for something and that, by not fullfilling that need, I will suffer great discomfort therefore I will go to great lengths to satisfy that need.

Under that definition, however, I would have to admit that the only craving I've ever had was for water when I was very thirsty. Technically, I did not "crave" blood. In fact, I found myself not wanting to eat anything because of the pain it caused me. Perhaps no other celiacs reported 'cravings' for blood or anything else, because they did not experience their cravings at the level of medical or psychological need.

However, if it ever occurred to anyone to ask celiacs if they eat raw meat or lick the blood off their wounds, there might be plenty of takers?

On Jan.20, it was pointed out that even this would not prove any correlation between blood-drinking and celiac disease unless someone did a comparative study of what percentage of celiacs lick their wounds and eat raw meat vs. what percentage of non-celiacs lick their wounds and eat raw meat. I am not prepared to do such a study.

In any event, although BJ had only a liking for blood, not an out-and-out craving, she did say she reached a point where she was UNABLE to eat anything except blood and water -- and such severe digestive problems are indeed consistent with what is known about celiac disease. So, if you, dear reader, happen to be UNABLE to consume anything except blood, then you might benefit by asking your doctor to check into the possibility that you have celiac disease, or some other digestive disorder.

Comments? Please write to Amy Krieytaz, c/o Sanguinarius: AKrieytaz@sanguinarius.org. Thank you.

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