This month marks 3 years since I was first diagnosed with celiac disease and started eating gluten free. It has been one more roller coaster! In the months (and years) leading up to my diagnosis, I was desperate for answers. My health was rapidly deteriorating and I felt like a shell of myself. By the time I had the celiac blood test and subsequent colonoscopy and endoscopy, I actually found myself praying that I would have celiac disease. I realize that sounds absolutely crazy, but I was ready for answers! I knew that having celiac disease would force me to eat gluten free for the rest of my life, but I was willing to do and try anything to feel better. Since I have never been a big bread eater, I figured that it wouldn’t be that big of a deal. Boy was I wrong!
After the celiac diagnosis, I went into research mode. I was shocked to find out that gluten was in pretty much everything! I remember constantly worrying about what in the world I was going to eat. Then, once I identified the very few places at the time that had gluten free products, I worried how I was going to pay for the food I could actually eat. Paying $6 for a mini loaf of gluten free bread for the first time is eye opening! I remember walking through grocery store after grocery store practically in tears picking up my favorite products and then putting them back on the shelf once I saw the word ‘wheat.’ I realize this sounds dramatic, but if you have been diagnosed with celiac disease then you more than likely understand where I’m coming from.
Perhaps the most worrisome aspect of the diagnosis was also thinking about social situations. I didn’t know how I would ever be able to go to another dinner party, wedding, picnic, etc. since I had so many restrictions. Food is such a big part of all of our lives! Some of my friends were extremely supportive while others were not. I know of instances where I was not invited places because it would have been too difficult to ‘accommodate’ my diet. Shockingly some of these friends were people I had known for years, and since they knew me so well, they should have known that I would have gladly have brought my own food to eat and even share with others.
The overwhelmingly good news is that in the last 3 years I have seen a huge change in gluten free eating. Whether it is the recent changing in the labeling of gluten free foods, there are tons of more gluten free products available, more restaurants have gluten free menus, and more people not only know what gluten is but are familiar with celiac disease. I hope that this trend continues and things continue to improve for those of us with celiac!
As a side note, I would like to thank my family for their overwhelming love and support on my gluten free journey. They have made this transition much easier for me, particularly my mom. She goes out of her way at every family function to serve delicious gluten free meals and makes sure that no one ‘contaminates’ them. If you have to eat gluten free, I sincerely hope you have a strong support system – whether it is friends or family – who are there to encourage you and support you on this path.
Here’s to many more happy and healthy years eating gluten free!