Friday, May 29, 2015

Celiac Disease Awareness Month 2015

I've been a bad gluten-free blogger this month.

That's because May is Celiac Disease Awareness Month (CDAM), and I really haven't talked about it much. If you follow me on social media (links to the right), you've probably seen me repost and share stuff about CDAM from other people this month, but I haven't created any of my own content for it and I'm sorry about that.

So right at the tail end of CDAM, I thought I'd post about the five years my husband and I have been on our gluten-free journey.

My husband didn't start presenting symptoms of Celiac until the summer of 2009 right before our honeymoon. (We had gotten married three months before going on our honeymoon.) He had constant stomach pain and felt like he couldn't breathe at times. We went on our honeymoon but made three trips to three different doctors while on vacation because my husband felt so bad. The first two doctors said it was acid reflux and told my husband to take Zantac. That didn't work. The third doctor sent my husband for an ultrasound because he thought my husband had stomach cancer. (Thank goodness for PPO health insurance letting us go to whatever doctor we wanted wherever we wanted with no referrals!) The ultrasound was negative.

Once back at home, my husband went to a general practitioner who told him it was all in his head. Then someone referred us to a gastroenterologist. This doctor was the first person to suggest the possibility of a Celiac diagnosis to us.

If you don't know, Celiac Disease is a genetic autoimmune disease. (Other autoimmune diseases include Lupus and Crohn's disease.) When a person with Celiac ingests gluten, the body sees gluten as something bad and attacks it. This leads to a host of symptoms such as stomach pain, bloating, joint pain, diarrhea, skin rash, weight loss, constipation, and more. There is no cure for Celiac (and the cause is not really known). The only way to alleviate the symptoms is to go on a gluten-free diet. If left untreated, Celiac Disease can lead to other medial issues such as malnutrition, osteoporosis, infertility, and cancer.

We researched Celiac Disease and gluten-free food. We were so discouraged by the high prices of gluten-free bread! Part of us really wanted the diagnosis to NOT be Celiac Disease because of the financial drain we anticipated experiencing when buying food my husband could eat. (I actually wrote a little about this in 2010 in this blog post, which goes off on a tangent about corn. This was right after I read The Omnivore's Dilemma.)

But the endoscopy showed visual proof of Celiac Disease and the blood test confirmed it. So in 2010, we began to change up the way we ate.

"No Gluten" layout from February 2010
It was certainly a learning process. I mean, I wrote this blog post where I erroneously referred to Celiac as a "food allergy". We have certainly learned a lot in five years! There were two sessions with a nutritionist specializing in Celiac Disease. We made special trips to Whole Foods and Trader Joe's 30 minutes away to stock up on gluten-free pasta and bread. My husband discovered Udi's gluten-free bread (and hasn't looked back!).

And then we started to notice a change. More and more regular grocery stores seemed to be carrying gluten-free food. Walmart. A&P. Stop and Shop. Target. ShopRite. Schnuck's. Dierberg's. We didn't have to make special trips to Whole Foods or Trader Joe's.

More and more restaurants started offering gluten-free menus, and many of those restaurants do take necessary precautions to ensure that cross-contamination doesn't happen in the kitchen.

More and more gluten-free food manufacturers popped up to offer more variety for gluten-free eaters.

More and more regular food companies began labeling which of their products were gluten-free. And some of begun producing gluten-free versions of their food, such as Barilla and Ronzoni with their gluten-free pasta.

The gluten-free food still costs more than the regular food, but it's certainly not what we expected five years ago. I should also mention that the gluten-free food of today tastes good, which wasn't always the case with some of the food we tried five years ago, and it's certainly leaps and bounds different from what was available 10, 15, and 20 years ago.

It's still not easy to have Celiac Disease, but it's easier.

If you want to know more about Celiac, see if you might have Celiac, or help organizations further research this disease, just click on this link for the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness.

1 comment:

  1. The benefit of more awareness of celiac disease and gluten-intolerance is definitely more gluten-free options being available. I hope more and more restaurants offer gluten-free options in their menus. I have a few friends who can only eat gluten-free things and it's definitely still a struggle for them to find places that cater to their dietary needs. Kudos to you for bringing more awareness to Celiac disease.