Hi, I’m Ashlee and I am a Celiac.
Sorry for the lame alcoholics anonymous introduction, but I couldn’t resist. The sentence however is true, I do have Celiac Disease, and Beka asked if I would talk a little about it, since it happens to be Celiac Awareness Month.
If you have never heard of Celiac Disease, don’t fret, that is what I am here for. This is such a great opportunity for me, because I am always looking for ways to help people become more aware about this increasingly popular disease. Did you know that More than 2 million people in the United States have the disease? That’s about every 1 in 133 people.
First, let me tell you a little about when I was diagnosed with this disease.
I was diagnosed in 2010 right as I was about to graduate high school. I had been consistently sick, missing lots of school, and started to undergo many different kinds of tests to help figure out what was wrong with me. I had resorted to not eating because at the time, everything I ate made me sick. I had a blood test done that looked for Celiac Disease. The only reason we had suggested checking for Celiac is because my grandmother has it. I had been keeping my fingers crossed that whatever was making me so sick wasn’t Celiac Disease. I had seen my grandma miss out on eating good food, and there was no way that I was going to have to do that too. When they called and told me the blood test suggested that it was extremely likely I had the disease I was so distraught. Who wants to eat gluten free? What is gluten free anyway?
They had me do a colonoscopy/endoscopy to confirm the diagnosis, and after that I started educating myself a little more about what exactly this disease is.
Celiac disease is a digestive disease that damages the small intestine and interferes with absorption of nutrients from food. People who have celiac disease cannot tolerate gluten, a protein in wheat, rye, and barley. Gluten is found mainly in foods but may also be found in everyday products such as medicines, vitamins, and lip balms.
When people with celiac disease eat foods or use products containing gluten, their immune system responds by damaging or destroying villi—the tiny, fingerlike protrusions lining the small intestine. Villi normally allow nutrients from food to be absorbed through the walls of the small intestine into the bloodstream. Without healthy villi, a person becomes malnourished, no matter how much food one eats.
Celiac disease is both a disease of malabsorption—meaning nutrients are not absorbed properly—and an abnormal immune reaction to gluten. Celiac disease is also known as celiac sprue, nontropical sprue, and gluten-sensitive enteropathy. Celiac disease is genetic, meaning it runs in families. Sometimes the disease is triggered—or becomes active for the first time—after surgery, pregnancy, childbirth, viral infection, or severe emotional stress (source).
My disease did not become active until I had gotten swine flu a few months previous to the Celiac symptoms. That is what I believe triggered the disease.
Since I have been diagnosed Celiac Disease has greatly affected my life. It has limited me when I am at social gatherings and they want to go eat somewhere that I can’t; I tried that once, and ended up throwing up the rest of the night. This reason being is the only way to treat Celiac Disease is to remain on a Gluten Free diet, for the rest of your life. I know that sounds a little like a death sentence, and trust me at the time it definitely seemed that way. Now that I have lived with the disease two years this very month, I have learned how to cook everything Gluten Free. I can now cook practically any recipe and substitute certain things to make it so that it is Gluten Free. This definitely took a lot of trial and error, finding the best ingredients that aren’t grainy, or turn to rice when they are cooked (trust me it’s happened.)
I’m thankful that I was able to be diagnosed as early as I was. The disease can literally eat away at your body if it goes untreated and cause more medical problems including: Type 1 diabetes, autoimmune thyroid disease, autoimmune liver disease, rheumatoid arthritis, Addison's disease, Sjögren's syndrome, & is also a cause of miscarriage. Since I have already had a miscarriage, whether it was due to my disease or not, I will definitely have to be careful in everything I eat the next time around. Gluten can be hidden in so many things you might not even guess have wheat, such as ice cream, medicine, and lotions.
If you think you may have the disease at all please get yourself tested. It is so worth it, because if you aren’t diagnosed your body will continue to get sicker and sicker. If you are worried that your life will be miserable eating gluten free, I am here to tell you, a gluten free diet is not all that bad. In fact since I have become so good at substituting flour and other things out of recipes, I rarely notice anything different about the way I eat compared to others. The only times that it is really hard is when I am out somewhere that I can’t eat anything at. There are a lot of popular restaurants that sell gluten free food, and you can find gluten free products in almost every grocery store now. I’m lucky to have been diagnosed when the disease is becoming more popular so that it is easier for me and others with the disease to maintain a Gluten Free diet, and try, to the best of our abilities, to live normally.
If you have any more questions about the disease feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org , or go to:http://digestive.niddk.nih.gov/ddiseases/pubs/celiac/#what.
Thank you so much for posting Ashlee! That was super informative and helped me understand better what Celiac's is all about. I've noticed over the past couple years that the food industry is becoming more "gluten-free friendly" and I hope it keeps going that way. I think it's important to be aware of Celiac's disease because it is so common and does affect many people. Thanks again Ash!