My senior year of high school, I was becoming violently ill every time I ate. I couldn’t keep anything down for weeks, and I was physically exhausted. My family was miserable, unable to go out or have a family meal without me getting sick. I was constantly in pain from my abdomen.
After several doctors, we were sent to a local gastroenterologist; a doctor who specializes in the digestive tract. I had weeks worth of blood tests, and two colonoscopies; he diagnosed me with Celiac Disease.
According to the Celiac Disease Foundation, “when people with celiac disease eat gluten (a protein found in wheat, rye and barley), their body mounts an immune response that attacks the small intestine. These attacks lead to damage on the villi, small fingerlike projections that line the small intestine, that promote nutrient absorption. When the villi get damaged, nutrients cannot be absorbed properly into the body.”
The worst part of Celiac is eating with other people; people tend to think of a gluten-free diet as a fad, rather than a dietary need. I often find myself denying food (food I definitely would love to eat) and feeling rude because I am not eating what friends and family offer me. Most understand after I explain that it’s a food allergy, not a trendy diet. My friends have been very kind about accommodating my Celiac, and for that I am incredibly grateful.
I didn’t know eating gluten-free was actually a thing until I was diagnosed with Celiac. Here are somethings I’ve learned after eating gluten-free for over a year:
- watch for contamination
Even if something was made with the intentions of being gluten-free, cross-contamination can make one ill. Think about your dishes and counter space when using gluten; it need’s to be thoroughly cleaned to protect you from the allergen.
- eating out is difficult
Gluten-friendly is not gluten free. Depending on how far you are trying to stay away from gluten, be aware of what eateries advertise as gluten free. There is no shame in asking for a nutrition guide or what is in the meal.
- fill your plates with fruit and veggies
Eating gluten-free has made me eat immensely healthier. Without the availability of anything I can eat, I find myself eating more salad at restaurants or family parties. I know that it’s better safe than sorry, and I feel no shame about eating tons of colorful fruits and vegetables!
- learn the gluten-free grains
Although you have to cut out a large portion of the “grain” food group, there are still some options! Rice and quinoa are two easy-to-make grains that can take the spot of your wheat. Most gluten-free pastas are made with rice. Corn can be used as a base for flour, widening your options even more. Beans, too, are naturally gluten free. Look to see what other grains are gluten free here.
Tip: Kroger and Aldi’s has a great gluten-free selection!
Eating Gluten Free in College
I go to Ohio University, and the school has been very accommodating to my dietary needs. Boyd Dining Hall even has an allergen-free station, where they make food fresh on the spot. Grilled cheese, baked potatoes, stir-fry, sandwiches– you name it! I’ve utilized that a lot, especially since at the other dining halls I’m basically limited to salad. Also, OU makes meals-to-order. If I wasn’t able to get to Boyd, I could order a gluten free meal at another dining hall and pick it up after class. I suggest looking into what your college does to accommodate food allergies!
I hope this basic guide on eating gluten-free helps anyone struggling with their dietary restrictions. Sometimes, people don’t understand why a gluten-free diet is necessary and educating them about the specific needs you have helps.