May is Celiac Disease Awareness Month. I have a challenge for you today. If you want a bit of a taste of how my life has changed since being diagnosed with Celiac Disease watch for advertising, billboards and recipes that your friends post on social media – are any of those items gluten free? When you are at the grocery store consider how many aisles of the grocery store no longer apply to me now that I have started my gluten free diet. Look at the pages of a menu in a restaurant and think about how much of that menu is off limits to me (note that most restaurants only have one deep fryer so I can’t even eat fries if they also cook breaded chicken or onion rings in the same fryer). My world is a lot smaller than it used to be.
Yes, there are still lots of choices (more everyday), I am sure lucky that I was diagnosed today vs. 10 years ago. I eat very well at home because we have made some big changes. We cleaned out our pantry, bought a new toaster, threw away our knife block and cutting boards and have taken other steps to ensure that I am safe. Our boys have not been diagnosed so we still have a small amount of gluten in our home for them, but because of that we have to have two butter dishes, two jars of peanut butter and honey, a dedicated toaster for them that sits on the one counter in our house that they are allowed to have gluten on. Every day is a bit more stressful because I might grab the wrong butter dish or maybe my boys didn’t wash their gluten covered hands before they dug in the silverware drawer. A crumb of gluten is enough to make me sick! Do you have any crumbs in your silverware drawer right now?
But back to my challenge… just for a day, please look at the world of food through my eyes. I am not on a fad diet to lose weight, I have Celiac Disease, an autoimmune disease, and if I eat gluten my body attacks itself! I have some uncomfortable symptoms that hit within hours of ingesting gluten, but what worries me is the long term damage to my intestines that increase my chances of anemia, osteoporosis, other autoimmune diseases and some cancers. I ask you to do this challenge so that next time we share a meal you won’t think that I am a pain in the a$$ and hopefully I won’t annoy or insult you if I bring my own food. Every day is a pain for me so please forgive me if I politely decline food that you have prepared or if I ask a million questions about ingredients and preparation methods (you probably didn’t know that the gluten in the grooves of the cutting board that you used to cut that watermelon could make me sick). If I only order a drink at a restaurant please don’t think I am trying to be dramatic, I die a little inside every time I don’t feel safe and have to do that (there are 101 ways for gluten free food to be cross contaminated, all it takes is a crumb to make me sick). Every meal of everyday I have to think about every little thing that I put in my mouth.
Thanks for listening! Now please, look around and see the world of food through the eyes of a Celiac for just a day to help me raise awareness for Celiac Disease Awareness Month.