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Tarek El Moussa details celiac diagnosis and how he's changed his diet

"Flip or Flop" and "Flipping 101" host Tarek El Moussa said that he made major changes to his diet after being diagnosed with celiac disease about six months ago.
/ Source: TODAY

After HGTV star Tarek El Moussa was diagnosed with celiac disease, he made some major changes to his diet, which he said has led to many health benefits.

In late September, he shared an exclusive clip of his doctor telling him he had been diagnosed with celiac disease. El Moussa, 40, told TODAY Health that he was diagnosed with the condition "within the past six months" after experiencing symptoms like joint pain.

"After my cancer history, we're always checking on my bloodwork and my health and staying on top of things," said El Moussa, who was diagnosed with thyroid cancer in 2013 after an eagle-eyed fan recommended he investigate a lump on his neck. He was also later diagnosed with testicular cancer. "I was having a lot of pain in my fingers and hands, and because of that my doctor just did a whole bunch of testing."

Celiac disease can cause inflammation, which was what was causing El Moussa's joint pain. The "Flipping 101" host said that almost immediately, he switched to a gluten-free diet.

While the change was immediate, he said it did take some time to get used to the new dietary restrictions.

"At the beginning, it was really, really difficult, because I didn't know what I could and could not eat," El Moussa said. "But like anything in life, time went on. By week three, I pretty much understood it."

While he has given up some of his favorite foods, like burritos made with flour tortillas, El-Moussa said that almost "everything he loves" has a "gluten-free option."

"I guess I still get to eat all the same foods that I've always loved, I just have to buy from certain brands," El Moussa said. "Pizza is (one of) my favorite things in the world, but I started ordering gluten-free pizza, and it turns out that actually tastes better than regular pizza, so I'm pretty happy about that."

Going gluten-free isn't the only major change El Moussa has made. After meeting his fiancée Heather Rae Young in 2019 after divorcing Christina Haack in 2018, the HGTV star has focused on eating "organic, clean foods" and homemade meals, replacing "fast food and junk food." Young is an outspoken vegan.

"I've cleaned up my entire life, to be honest," El Moussa said. "Before I met Heather, I had high blood pressure, high heart rate, I had high cholesterol and just a whole bunch of problems. I just decided to really work on my health and I focused on hot yoga ... As well as cleaning up my diet. Now my blood work is completely different."

"It's amazing what just a little work can do to the body," the former "Flip or Flop" star continued. "It just shows you that you can come back from anything. A couple years ago, I was 60 pounds overweight, fighting two cancers, and you know, today I'm healthy."

In addition to helping him improve his general health, going gluten-free will also lower El Moussa's chances of developing cancer again, according to his doctor, internal medicine specialist Dr. Ellen Song.

"If you stay gluten-free, one, you'll feel better and two, the risk of cancer is much, much lower," Song told El Moussa in a recent episode of "Flipping 101."

El Moussa said that while going entirely gluten-free may seem intimidating, it is something that anyone can do if they put their ind to it.

"Something I never realized until recently is we're machines, right?" El Moussa said. "In a car, you can put in low-octane gas or high-octane gas. If we want our bodies to perform at the highest level we need to be putting in fruits and vegetables and healthy foods. If someone wants that change, it's just about setting a plan and getting started."

El Moussa emphasized how much of a difference the diet has made in his life.

"At 40 years old, I am in the best, best health of my life," he said. "I've never felt this good."

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