I can’t tiptoe around the fact that my blog has been deafeningly quiet the past 3 months (for good reasons I promise to explain in a week or two!) but there was no way I could let Celiac Awareness Month pass by without posting about it!
Inspired by a great Twitter chat I participated in earlier today, hosted by Celiac Central (@celiacawareness) and WEGO Health (@wegohealth), I thought I’d post and answer the questions asked during today’s talk. Plus now I can elaborate outside 140 characters! To see the full conversation, search under #HAChat on Twitter.
Q1. What have you found the most frustrating part of living gluten free?
A2: Cravings! Sometimes you just want a sandwich that’s bigger than 2 inches by 2 inches! (A little jab at how tiny gluten free bread typically is). But seriously, people’s skepticism and unintentional ignorance can be frustrating. Thanks to media outlets and celebrities, gluten free has incorrectly been portrayed as a fad diet to lose weight when that is so far from reality. There are a couple legit celebrity advocates of Celiac awareness such as Jennifer Esposito and Elisabeth Hasselbeck, but all in all there is very poor, misrepresentation in Hollywood and on the news. The biggest issue is their failure to report the severity of Celiac and gluten intolerance, or how eating gluten free is our only form of medication. (Actually food allergies and intolerances are downplayed in general, but that a whooole other blog topic!) Thanks to misinformation, people think that those with Celiac or gluten intolerance can just “pick out” the gluten-y parts and eat what everyone else is eating, when that is far from the truth. Most restaurants are now adding gluten free items to their menus, and while on the surface that seems awesome, I’m afraid many are foregoing the necessary protocols to ensure there is no cross-contamination.
Q2. What’s the best part of living gluten free?
A2. How much better I feel! I have been living a medication-free life for almost two years now because of it. I was on Adderall for years, but one week of being gluten free caused my medication to become entirely too strong so I had to stop taking it and I haven’t needed it since! Also, I didn’t even realize how crappy I felt all the time, until I cut out gluten, because I just assumed how I felt after each meal was normal. Another great positive in being gluten free is that many friends and family have really gone out of their way to ensure I have something to eat during parties and get-togethers. My mom and father-in-law (the cooks in each respective family) have completely changed their traditional holiday recipes and menu items so that I don’t miss out. It’s really touching and I’m lucky to have the support.
Q3. What symptoms did you have that led you to believe you could have Celiac or gluten sensitivity?
A3. ADHD, moodiness, bloating, and always feeling sick and/or stuffed after every meal even if I didn’t eat that much. Many people believe that gluten intolerance or Celiac causes stomach problems only, but it can manifest itself in so many other ways including neurological or skin disorders, fatigue, and a host of other unique symptoms. (Check out the Celiac checklist here: http://www.celiaccentral.org/checklist/)
Q4. Have you talked to your family members about getting tested for Celiac?
A4. Yes, because I believe multiple members of my family and my husband’s family have some form of gluten intolerance, but no one is willing to get tested or try a gluten elimination diet. When I remember some of my late grandma’s quirks, I think she may have had it too. My 3 year old was recently tested since he already has a sugar intolerance, but the test came out negative. The pediatrician wants to have him tested at least every 2 years though due to my history, which increased his clout with me since it means he understands how sneaky this disease can be! False negatives are very common in Celiac testing so if the sugar intolerance continues to be an issue as he gets older, I would be very willing to put him on a 2-4 week gluten elimination diet. As for the rest of my family, I wish they would try an elimination diet instead of suffering from their array of digestive issues including IBS, bloat, and inflammation.
Q5. How long did you have symptoms before you got diagnosed or went gluten free?
A5. I didn’t go gluten free until I was 28 and although it may be possible it has been a life-long issue, I don’t remember the early years. However, I have extremely memorable symptoms dating back to early high school. I was (mis)diagnosed with ADHD during my junior year at Villanova, so I know that my freshman year began the height of my symptoms. I imagine that eating in the dining hall, where rolls, pizza, cereal, hoagies, buns, soft pretzels, and pasta run rampant, may have enhanced the issue and pushed my body to its absolute limit.
Finally, though not included in the talk, this is a very common question I’m asked:
Q6. If someone is just diagnosed with Celiac, gluten intolerance, or gluten sensitivity, and beginning a gluten free diet for health reasons, where should they start?
A6. There are so many wonderful resources available online now, including official foundations such as CeliacCentral.org and Celiac.org, informative blogs filled with delicious gluten free recipes (like Below the Fork!) by real people living this gluten free life, and an excellent community on Twitter (common hashtags of conversations are #glutenfree and #Celiac), as well as Facebook and Pinterest. Check out my blog roll to the right of my page for some of the blogs I like to read. I also highly recommend checking out some of the Paleo diet websites because keeping to a well-balanced menu of the natural fruit, veggies and meat God created for us, instead of processed junk, is the best way to fight this disease. And finally, feel free to email me with questions at firstname.lastname@example.org at anytime!