As I sit and have the waiter take my order I sense the pressure and criticism of those sitting around me. My tummy clenches and my appetite slips away. I find strength within and focus on everything else except the people I am sitting around with. I know what they are thinking. I have heard it all and I know the thoughts racing through their heads. I have become accustomed to these sort of situations especially at family gatherings. Not everyone understand what it is to be a celiac. I have been accused of being a picky eater, following a fad diet, doing it to lose weight, being rude and last but not least being told it’s all in my head. Apparently I am not the only celiac who confronts this situation. I have met a couple celiacs and they too have experienced bullying and harassment at times from people who don’t understand their strict gluten free diet. Celiac is a disease that not a lot of people know about and there is a lot of misconception about it. It is not a group of people following a fad diet, picky eaters, diet for losing weight and we didn’t make it up. It’s real and 1 in 100 people have celiac disease. I hope talking about this will spread awareness so that people may be more considerate towards celiacs just as we are considerate towards diabetics and people suffering from other illnesses.
WHY SO STRICT?
A gluten free diet is not an option for a celiac. A celiac’s only option to increasing their survival rate and improving their condition is to follow a strict gluten free diet. Celiacs have a twofold chance of developing non-hodgkin’s lymphoma, systemic lupus erythematosus, esophageal carcinoma, carcinoma and small intestine adenocarcinoma. Twelve gluten exposures per year increases our mortality rate up to 600%.There is no cure for celiac disease but by following a strict gluten free diet we are beating the odds of all the things we are susceptible to. We can’t escape not think or questioning what we eat, drink, makeup we use, toothpaste, lotion for our skin and even ground spices we use for cooking. Gluten is hidden in many foods and products. The following is just a short list. Gluten hides in…
- Artificial coffee creamers
- Salad dressings
- Flavored tea
- Soy sauce
- Vegetable cooking sprays
- Beauty Products
- Tomato sauce
- Rice Mixes
- Chewing gum
- Snack chips
WHAT HAPPENS WHEN WE ARE EXPOSED TO GLUTEN
What people don’t know is what happens to celiacs when exposed to gluten. When we are exposed to gluten we go into sudden depression, anxiety and we find it hard to function. I have found myself completely isolated and avoiding people all together when this has happened to me. Dealing with basic everyday situations may become very difficult for us. Along with mood instability we spiral into deep brain fogs. I myself have experienced brain fogs which have lasted up to two weeks. Confusion, headaches and feeling like everything is moving in slow motion is what our days turn into. Feeling hazy all the time makes it impossible to focus properly and it becomes a nightmare. While we are lost in this chaos, we are sick to our stomachs and experience fear in so many ways. I personally fear it getting worse, lasting longer than the usual, not being able to function completely and the consequences of the immune system response my body is experiencing. We all know what feeling tired is but for a celiac it’s chronic fatigue that hits us when we eat foods that contain gluten. It’s common for us to suffer from vertigo and joint pain during this time. We start feeling back to normal again within a month but what our body is put through has health consequences in the long run.
AWARENESS AND SUPPORT
On average it takes 6-10 years for get proper diagnosis. Statics show 41% of adults and 60% of children are asymptomatic which means they don’t experience any symptoms until all sorts of health complications start unraveling. Celiac is complicated and tricky. Celiac is a battle we are fighting and it’s a war within us. It’s already difficult and bullying us makes it even more excruciating. I feel it’s important to spread awareness on this subject so that we are able to provide better care/ understanding for men, women and children fighting this battle. We are not being rude, picky or just doing it to give you a hard time. We are using the only weapon we have to fight back and that weapon is a strict gluten free diet. It’s not easy but it becomes a little less complicated when we are given the support and understanding we need.
- DR. PETER H.R. GREEN AND RORY JONES. CELIAC DISEASE: A HIDDEN EPIDEMIC. JANUARY 26, 2010.
- GLUTEN FREE DUDE: HTTP://GLUTENDUDE.COM/CELIAC-DISEASE-SYMPTOMS
- THE UNIVERSITY OF CHICAGO CELIAC DISEASE CENTER: HTTP://WWW.CURECELIACDISEASE.ORG/WP-CONTENT/UPLOADS/2011/09/CDCFACTSHEETS8_FACTSFIGURE.PDF