Hey Gorgeous RWs!
As you may or may not know, I have Celiac disease. Which in a cardboard-like pie shell means that I can’t ingest gluten or I will have a severe auto-immune reaction.
Let me tell you a story:
“I’m gluten-free” I hear a girl a few tables down tell the waiter. My ears perk up because being gluten free is always a bonding point between people with an intolerance. The waiter nods and asks what she’ll have to drink “Oh, just a light beer”
My heart sinks– she is not gluten free. She might be looking to lose a few pounds and in doing so is putting those of us who have medical reasons for pursuing a gluten-free diet at risk. How? Because for every person that says they need to eat gluten free but doesn’t – it shows servers that they do not need to take care when dealing with actual celiacs or people with gluten sensitivity.
It will be ten years ago this December that I was diagnosed with Celiac disease after almost two years of medical tests, heart issues, migraine headaches and severe anemia. Yep, ten years of not eating gluten and ten years of living in constant fear that I will have mis-read a label, or that someone will have touched my food with tongs that held regular bread.
Celiac disease is an auto-immune disease that causes inflammation by ingesting or absorbing gluten containing grains (wheat, rye and barley are the main ones).
I am going to write in more detail about my diagnosis later, but in light of May being Celiac awareness month, I wanted to answer some of the most common questions I get asked about my disease.
- So… you’re allergic to wheat?
Simply put: No. I am not allergic to wheat. Celiac disease is not an allergy, it is an auto-immune disease, meaning, that when I have gluten, it causes my body to attack itself because it doesn’t know how to deal with the gluten protein in a normal way. This means that I cannot ingest, or absorb gluten however, in the case of Wheat glucose, distilled alcohols and straw– I can use and ingest these products because the process either removes the gluten entirely (distillation) or the product is not made from the part of the plant containing the gluten protein. In the case of a wheat allergy, I would not be able to have glucose if it were sourced from wheat and I couldn’t touch anything that contained wheat either.
- A little bit wont hurt you though right?
Put simply: Yes, yes it will. This is the question that I get the most and is also my most hated. Often, people who ask it believe that I am being over dramatic when I say that I cannot have anything, even if it’s ‘only’ touched something with gluten in it.
A crumb the size of a grain of sand has the potential to trigger a celiac response in my body and it is not worth the risk. This means that cross contamination is a huge issue for Celiacs since it can come from anywhere and will trigger an intense immune reaction.
Celiac safe is considered less than 20ppm of gluten.
- So… What happens when you eat gluten?
Put simply: I get sick.
On the ‘sciency’ side of things: the micro-villa in my small intestine shrivel up and I cannot absorb nutrients, this also causes inflammation in my joints, bleeding in my intestines and intense gastro-responses.What I tell people: I bleed out of my butt.My actual celiac response: Starts with a migraine headache, fever and heart palpitations followed by my joints swelling and freezing, followed by excruciating stomach pain, diarrhea and vomiting – and I am generally out for two weeks.
- Can you cheat?
Read above answer.
- So… what do you eat?
Put simply: Meat, and veggies.
In reality I eat what normal people eat I just need to be really careful. I don’t eat a lot of pre-packaged or processed foods since they tend to have gluten in them. Yes there are gluten-free pre-packaged foods but I find most of them too sugary.I eat whole foods, such as veggies, meats and non-gluten grains and I try to supplement my diet with things like Iron and B12 since celiacs are generally low. That being said – there are some bomb dot com gluten-free treats out there [more on this later] that I do enjoy on occasion.
- What’s this one thing you wish people would understand about Celiac disease?
Put simply: Please don’t push me
The major thing is taking it seriously and understanding my fear and hesitation about trying new restaurants or letting someone cook for me in their kitchen.
There is still damage in my body and so I live with chronic pain and chronic bowel issues, which means that sometimes I have to cancel plans last minute or that I have to leave early.
It is terrifying when someone else cooks for me who I don’t know or trust to take the necessary precautions. Because while your intentions might be good you could end up killing me or at the very least cause me to take two weeks off work, followed by months of recovery.
So there you have it, the main questions that get raised about my life with Celiac disease. Do you have any questions about Celiac disease or even following a gluten free diet? Let me know in the comments!