First off, I must say, I do not have an official celiac disease diagnosis. But, more importantly, my lack of diagnosis does not mean that I don’t take the gluten-free lifestyle seriously and I definitely do not want others to think that cross-contamination doesn’t affect me, or that I don’t get sick when I am glutened.
My family’s gluten free journey began when I was a freshman in college. I was on spring break when my mom called me to say that she had a disease. Say What?! Mom, come on, you don’t have a disease! You’re fine!
My mother explained that she was diagnosed with celiac disease and that she had to give up gluten. My initial reaction was:
What is gluten?
Gluten is bread?!
How are you NOT going to eat bread? It’s the one food that we always have on our dinner table!
After further explanation, my mother informed me that I had to be tested for celiac as well. After she told me that, I prayed to the Lord above that my tests would come back negative. My daily diet consisted of bagel for breakfast, a wrap for lunch, pasta and bread for dinner, and a whole lot of gluten mixed in-between. I wouldn’t survive on a gluten-free diet, I was sure of it.
So the testing began. I went home for a weekend during the spring semester of my freshman year and got the blood drawn. I anxiously awaited the results, crossing my fingers for a big fat negative and eating as much gluten as I could in the meantime.
The tests then came back and my prayers were answered! A negative diagnosis! I would continue to eat everything that I loved, and my life would go on!
The following year I started to notice the increased amount of times I would visit the bathroom, or the stomach pains that would keep me from concentrating during class. I was also a college athlete at the time, and often had to get out of the swimming pool to run to the bathroom in the middle of practice. After talking with my mom about the problems I was having, we decided that I should do a trial gluten-free diet when I came home for spring break that year.
After just three days on my spring break gluten-free diet, I was a new person! No more stomach pains. I didn’t run to the bathroom 8+ times per day, and I felt, dare I say, normal. The decision was made that I would officially go gluten-free when summer break began and I wouldn’t have to depend on the college dining hall for meals.
I’ve now been gluten-free since May 2009 and I couldn’t be happier. My sister went gluten-free just a short time after me as well, so my family support system is amazing. My family is also blessed to have my stepdad, Craig. He is part of the gluten-eating club, but he has been a tremendous help throughout this journey. When we first started eating gluten-free, Craig was the brains behind the operation, researching every ingredient possible and becoming our own gluten-free chef. He was truly a blessing throughout this experience.
The gluten-free lifestyle has changed my family’s life in so many ways, as I’m sure it does with everyone. I have personally become passionate about the lifestyle and work hard to spread awareness and help others with their journey.
- Laura Hanley