So pretty recently in my life, I discovered that I have what is called Celiac’s Disease. Celiac is an immune disorder that creates anti-bodies that attacks the gluten protein while it is in the intestines, which destroys the cilia that lines the intestines. This makes it hard to absorb nutrients and leaves you feeling fatigued, bloated, uncomfortable, and for me it felt like someone was constantly stabbing me in the stomach, I mean it was awful.
There are no treatments or cures that have been found to fix this problem, so the main thing that you have to do is cut all gluten out of your system. Gluten is found in anything that has wheat, rye, or barley. Most flours used in baking and cooking are some sort of wheat flour. This makes eating VERY difficult, especially if you are going to a restaurant.
And this is where it gets tricky because when people hear “gluten-free” they have this very unfair stereotype. They assume that you’re doing it for your health or trying to lose weight; stereotypes like this can be very damaging especially because of the contamination consequences.
Last fall, I got a pumpkin spice latte at Starbucks, and had no reaction at all. So I got one from Dunkin Donuts a week or two later assuming that it would be fine. It wasn’t. I was in severe pain and discomfort all day (because I drank the whole thing and the reaction sneaks up on you). I couldn’t focus on what I was doing, I was tired, irritated, and just outright miserable. I went to the health center at school and explained what happened, and they gave me some Tums to take. They also told me that since I don’t know what gluten is, I obviously have to visit the nutritionist. Which was rude. But I did it anyway. It turns out that Starbucks had changed their recipe and it no longer contained gluten, but Dunkin’s did still contain gluten. It was a day-ruiner.
Having something like this is very difficult because it is really hard to learn what you can and can’t eat, and the diet change is a huge adjustment. To make matters worse, when you say “gluten-free” you get eyerolls, blank stares, and sometimes even smirks from waiters, waitresses, hosts, etc. It sucks to feel like your condition is a joke to some people. In some places, I say I have a gluten allergy, because then sometimes people take it more seriously and I get less of the rude reactions. One of the most helpful things for those of us who have to deal with this would be people educating themselves on this growing epidemic, as well as learning what to say (or not say) to people dealing with it.