I was diagnosed with celiac disease when I was three years old – back in 1995. I was sick all the time and going to the doctor nearly every week. My stomach was bloated, my hair was falling out, and my skin was flaking off. My wonderful mom is the one who discovered what was wrong with me. She want to the library to research for hours (before the Internet was a thing) and narrowed it down – either celiac disease or lactose intolerance. Sure enough, my pediatrician sent me to a gastroenterologist and I was officially diagnosed as a celiac. I was the first case of celiac disease for my pediatrician and he didn’t have another case after me for ten years!
The only way to manage life as a celiac is to eat strictly gluten free. As a child, most people in my life had no idea what gluten was. I just told everyone that I couldn’t eat wheat because then they understood better. I had responses such as, “Oh! You can’t eat like bread and pizza and stuff? That stinks!”
I also had the lovely individuals who didn’t understand the consequences that came with digesting gluten and would try to convince me it was worth it to enjoy the tasty food. I would explain that short term consequences were normally throwing up or diarrhea, but the long term consequences were much more severe. So, what happens when an individual with celiac disease eats gluten?
First of all, gluten is a protein that is found in grains such as wheat, barley, and rye. Gluten acts as a binding agent for these proteins. As a celiac, gluten affects the small intestine. There are finger-like projections, called villi, that flatten when gluten is consumed. The villi are vital in providing the body with nutrients, so the person becomes malnourished. When the small intestine isn’t given time to heal, this can lead to the development of other autoimmune disorders, such as Type 1 diabetes, and also lead to certain cancers or osteoporosis.
In recent years, the oh-so-wonderful gluten free fad has become increasingly popular. Some people joined the bandwagon, but when asked what gluten actually is, had no idea. The pros? More gluten free options in grocery stores and restaurants and better labeling on food products. The cons? Celiac disease and gluten intolerances not being taken seriously and restaurants not providing adequate training to hinder the cross-contamination of their food.
Whether you’re just starting your gluten free journey as a celiac, or you’re a veteran like me, I’m hoping this can be a place for support, advice and guidance. Welcome to Simple Celiac!