Mariah MeyerThe Voices of Celiac Disease

“Aloha! I’m Mariah Meyer, professional shark diver, marine biologist and self-proclaimed, gluten-free pizza aficionado.”

A photo of Mariah smiling on the beach.

Aloha! I’m Mariah Meyer, professional shark diver, marine biologist and self-proclaimed, gluten-free pizza aficionado. I grew up in San Clemente California and Kilauea, Kauai. After finishing college I moved to Oahu, Hawai’i for work.

Journey To Diagnosis

I was diagnosed with celiac disease and a few other autoimmune diseases halfway through my freshman year of college. I got sick almost every single day and had no clue what was happening to me—I felt so ill all the time and I couldn’t focus. After my endoscopy, I was told that I had an extremely inflamed intestine, and that I had. the genetic marker for celiac disease.

At the time I was studying to be a marine biologist and playing division 1 water polo. Because of malnourishment and other health complications, I had to quit the team. It felt like I had lost my identity when I wasn’t able to do the things I loved and had to miss so many classes for doctor appointments and transfusions.

Pushing for a Better Life

In college I felt like no one understood me or what I was going through; this was a time to have fun with friends and party, but I was in and out of doctors appointments. I felt so alone going out to eat with friends, worried that I would get glutened or just feeling left out because “I can’t eat that,” or “I can’t drink that.” I couldn’t go out to eat like normal because I had such major food anxiety, and it really alienated me from my friends and family.

Thankfully I did have a great support system and began to advocate for myself more. After being diagnosed with celiac disease, I still had issues with digestion and bloating that was not normal. After seeing four or five doctors and them all telling me it’s just symptoms of celiac, I found out I’d had SIBO for over a year! It was a great feeling to be finally diagnosed after being paranoid for so long. I was so happy to have a second diagnosis and finally be able to “fix” myself.

Living Life to the Fullest

It was a really long and tough road for me to get to where I am now, but I graduated with honors in the top of my class and was able to take my dream job as a shark safety diver and marine conservationist in Hawai’i. I still suffer from flare-ups and I do occasionally get glutened as well. I also struggle with chronic fatigue because I have a very physical job—my friends even call me sleeping beauty.

Life isn’t perfect with this disease, but it does get better. I want to show people that you can do anything you set your mind to, even if you do have limitations. I love being in the ocean because there I feel like I have none of the “land” problems that I do. The ocean has taught me to be thankful for all I have. There are times where I wake up and wish I looked different or didn’t have all the health issues. But the ocean reminds me that I have a strong healthy body—a body that lets me surf, swim and freedive. And I am extremely thankful for that.