Living Gluten Free: The Life & Times of Celia C

You may have noticed that gluten-free food is suddenly taking up space on the grocery shelves. This is, in part, because more and more people are being diagnosed with Celiac disease.

from glutenfreesupport

Celiac disease is an intestinal condition that affects approximately 1 in 133 people. In a nutshell, the body reacts badly to gluten and cannot absorb key nutrients. Eventually the body becomes malnourished. There is a lot more information about Celiac disease that you can look up, but rather than bore you with facts and statistics, I’ve called on my friend Celia C to help me out with this series.

from d&bphotography

Here’s her story:

As a child, I had an odd food aversion. I didn’t like “bread.”

from neaifs

In my mind, things that tasted like bread included flour tortillas, pasta, cookies, brownies, cakes, muffins, flake cereals, and I didn’t like any of them. When my mom brought home groceries, it was my job to put the cookies in the cookie jar because she knew I wouldn’t eat them.

from dogsinthenews

For years, my parents just thought I was being picky to be contrary.  They forced me, as most parents do, to eat what I was served. Only after many, many years did my mother come to the conclusion that I wasn’t just being a pain in the butt.

from funky downtown

I really, truly did not want to eat a PB&J or mac and cheese.  By the time I entered 3rd grade, Mom was at the end of her food-rope and found ways to work around my strange aversions.

from desperateanglo

She took sandwich meats and cheeses and rolled them up, secured with toothpicks.  She spread peanut butter on rice cakes or on quartered apples.

I was a healthy kid.

from hewhoknowssports

Then college happened.  It’s amazing what you’ll make yourself eat when you’re the one paying for it.  Almost overnight I was a fan of noodles, sandwiches, pizza and muffins.

from steveandkatyrun

 That’s when my chronic heartburn started. From age 20 to 25, I don’t think I went more than a day without having to chew a few Tums.

When I was 23, my father was diagnosed with Celiac disease. None of us had heard of it.  I knew that my dad was always having sinus issues and that over the years, he had developed a “spare tire” my brothers had named Otis.

from ucs

 What I didn’t know was that my dad had gone his whole life feeling uncomfortable, bloated and gassy after every meal. No matter how healthy the meal, he always felt gross.  He thought everyone felt that way.  Luckily, when his doctor retired, his new one paid attention.  Dad says one week after going gluten free he felt completely different.  We all noticed that in six months, “Otis” was all but gone.

Turns out it wasn’t excess fat.

It was swelling from his inflamed intestines.

from thphnopen

When my father explained to me what he could no longer eat, a light bulb went off in my head.  This sounded like everything I refused to eat as a child, with the exception of fried foods.  I asked my doctor and she started the testing for me.  At age 25, I was diagnosed.

Celiac disease is a genetically acquired auto immune disorder.

from tasteofhome

My father, my cousin (on my father’s side) and I are the only blood relatives I know who have the disease.  We think my uncle (that cousin’s father) may have had it as well, but as he passed away many years ago, we have no way of knowing.  I can say that my cousin has the most sensitive and severe case I’ve heard of.

So what happens when my father, cousin, or I eat something with gluten in it?

Biologically speaking, when a celiac eats or drinks anything with gluten, it triggers an autoimmune response in which the immune system mistakenly attacks the small intestine.  Normally, the small intestine is lined by little hair like things called Villi.  Combined, they give the interior a kind of velvet-like texture that catches the food and drink particles leaving the stomach.  The villi absorb nutrients.

from homecomcast

When a celiac reaction is triggered, the villi are flattened, making the interior surface smooth.  This allows food and drink to pass quickly through to the large intestine.

The short term results of a reaction include a variety of digestive symptoms. These can vary in type and severity depending on the person, the type of contamination and the amount of contraband ingested.

Personally, sometimes I feel nauseous.

from buzzle

Other times I’ve just had a tummy ache, or at the worst, diarrhea.  Other celiacs have different reactions, more or less severe.  My own hypothesis is that because I didn’t eat a lot of wheat most of my life, I did not sustain as much damage to my intestine. I think this is why my reactions are not as severe as others’.

Diagnosis takes two steps.

Step One:  A blood test for the antibodies for the disease.

Presence of antibodies is not definitive but absence will rule it out.  If the antibody test is positive, you move on to step two.

Step Two: An upper endoscopy.

In layman’s terms, they knock you out and send a scope camera down your gullet taking pictures of your upper digestive tract (esophagus, stomach and the first portion of the small intestine).  This shows the damage done inside the intestine. This is the only definitive test for celiac disease.

from celiacresource

Leading up to my endoscopy, I ate wheat with EVERY MEAL. Seriously. Every morning was a biscuit or an English muffin sandwich. Lunches were pasta or quesadillas. Dinners were mostly pastas or fried foods.

The night before the endoscopy, I ate an entire box of Triscuits.  I hoped my suspicions were wrong, but they weren’t.

from patriciacarroll

Several theories attempt to explain why celiac disease has become so much more prevalent in recent years.

 On one end more doctors are being educated about it and so are including it in their list of possibilities when helping a patient with digestive discomfort.  Now it’s not just Crohn’s, IBS or colitus.  Celiac is on that list.

Another theory says that not only is Celiac being diagnosed better, but that our bodies are evolving to reject overly processed foods.

from nicolarae

Strictly speaking, wheat isn’t food for humans. Raw wheat stalks and grain are not edible.  It must be ground finely, mixed with other ingredients and subjected to heat in order to make something edible.

Also, the wheat being grown and consumed today is genetically FAR different from the wheat consumed by humans only 300 to 500 years ago.  It could be argued that Celiac disease is just the name given to the body’s gradual rejection of unnatural food.

from blackgirlsguidetoweightloss

After I was diagnosed, I read a few books about my celiac and about gluten free living.

from glutenfreehelp

I’d also gotten a bit of a head start with my dad.   I think I had it easier than a lot of celiac patients because I’m not a mom or a wife. I can’t imagine how hard it would be to go GF with lots of other people in the kitchen. Luckily  my roommate was very cool about keeping her wheaty stuff separated from the rest of our groceries.

Initially, I did what a lot of newly diagnosed celiacs do: I bought and ate a bunch of GF substitute products, i.e. pastas, breads, etcs.  For the most part it tasted ok, though it was a few years before I found bread that worked, but that’s another story.

from wlecomingspirit

What the books didn’t tell me was that besides being much more expensive, the GF substitute products are really bad for you, as far as weight control goes.

from squidoo

They’re made from grains very high on the glycemic index, meaning that they spike your blood sugar very quickly.  Potato, rice, tapioca, etc.  The body converts these to sugar MUCH quicker than wheat. (Again, because they are natural human foods whereas wheat is not.)

I gained weight very quickly.

from scrapetv

After having to buy new pants and bras (SO EXPENSIVE) I took a step back and looked at my diet options.

It took some time, but my diet evolved and now I think it’s pretty healthy. Yeah, I could be thinner if I exercised more but whatever.  My diet philosophy is to eat the foods that were gluten free to begin with.

from lifeplusvitamins

When I got diagnosed, and explained to some friends what I could no longer eat, they all immediately replied with something like “You can’t eat anything!”  Not true.

Things I Cannot Eat:

  • traditional bread
  • pasta
  • flour tortillas
  • fried foods
  • soy sauce
  • beer
  • baked goods
  • some gravies
  • some soups

Things I Can Eat: (These are broad categories here)

  • meat
  • vegetables
  • all manner of dairy products (except a few brands of yogurt)
  • potatoes
  • rice
  • quinoa
  • beans
  • nuts
  • many cereals
  • granola bars
  • and the list goes on

Other than the bakery, there is no section of the grocery store from which I can’t find something to eat.

from foodadditives

It’s not that hard, you just have to take the time to learn.

suck it, gluten.

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Categories: Guest Posts, Life


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