In honor of May being Celiac Awareness Month, rather than me just share my experiences living with the disease… this year I want to hear from YOU! Each week last month I asked a different question about living with celiac disease and the responses I got were incredible! It makes me so proud to be a part of such a strong community and really helps me believe that I’m not alone in this struggle!
The first week I asked you to fill in the blank:
“The most challenging aspect of living with celiac disease is ___.”
If I were to answer this question I would say for me personally the most challenging aspect of this disease are social situations. Even five years post-diagnosis I admit, sometimes before I head out to a party or other social events I feel anxious and maybe even get some tears in my eyes. Do I love packing my own food to take with me? Nope… Do I like when people ask me if I’m dieting? No… Do I like feeling anxious every time I order at a restaurant and hope they don’t mess up my order? Not a bit. Does it hurt my feelings when people say “I think you make it a bigger deal than it is… a few bites won’t hurt you”? Absolutely.
Five years later I’m starting to learn to not care what others think and put my health first. A couple years ago I wrote an open letter to celiac and shared some of the challenges I felt. You can read that here if you’d like!
Now on to your responses!
(I’m keeping all answers anonymous to respect everyones privacy)
- Making sure my 8 year old son always feels special and not left out. It’s hard enough being a kid, but being a kid with celiac disease can be challenging.
- Trying to tell people that this is a disease not a choice..like yes I’m dying to have that piece of cake or pizza but I can’t because it will hurt like hell. People just have to know the differences between people having a gluten free diet because they want to have a healthy lifestyle or because there is no other choice!!..i’m 23 years old, i’ve discovered that I have celiac a few month ago, and it’s so hard for me to fit in with all these things, and I’m tired of explaining myself to people who actually don’t understand or don’t care, because it’s not a well-known disease doesn’t make it less important.
- Ensuring my daughter is in charge of her disease and not the disease is in charge of her. Diagnosed at 8 yrs, with history of illness, she will be the victor.
- Travel. Long haul flights are tough. As is staying in places who aren’t aware of coeliac disease, especially if you don’t speak the language.
- Trying to figure out what you can or can’t eat at a buffet and how difficult it sometimes is to track down a chef to help you out.
- Planning ahead.
- The anxiety of going out to eat.
- What bugs me the most is that people treat this as a joke, and call it a fad, a diet. It’s a way of life, not a diet, and they can’t seem to grasp it. I am tired of restaurants and manufacturers jumping in on what they consider a craze. Their staffs are ill prepared to deal with us properly. There are restaurants I no longer eat at because I have been glutened too many times. So far I trust Five Guys and Outback. Red Robin and Chik-Fil-A have made me and my daughter-in-law ill too many times. I hate hearing that I can get gluten free pizza only to find out it is prepared in the same place and using the same equipment. It’s not all bad though. I have made lovely friends online that share my feelings, and we can vent or laugh. We laugh a lot, especially over doctors. I think one of us would know more about what celiac disease is and isn’t, than a trained physician would.
- For me it’s the social aspect. Everything social revolves around food. It’s a hassle to have to make & pack food for myself & my son. I’m already incredibly busy & don’t need or want more work. I don’t look forward to or enjoy social stuff anymore. I used to really LOVE going to pot lucks & sampling all the foods. In all honesty I dread it now & will very often look for a way out if I can.
- The most challenging (and frustrating) aspect of celiac disease for me has been the absence of finding good health care providers!!! Looking back, my body was out of sorts for years – but the last two yrs before a diagnosis were BAD! I lost a considerable amount of weight, suffered poor health and debilitating GI issues …. and after repeat visits to my physician and GI Dr – I was carelessly (repeatedly) sent away with “Its just IBS!” I KNEW that diagnosis was incorrect. I did my own research, approached my physician of 30+ years with the request for a celiac blood test! Positive! The endoscopy that followed confirmed my small intestine was extremely damaged due to celiac disease! Two doctors missed this – and one was a GI specialist! After 8 months on a GF diet, and still feeling pourly – MY research suggested a celiac should have thorough blood work! Again – I had to ask!!! MY Inquiry revealed I was VERY low in B, D-3 & folate which necessitated supplementation. The last two years, prior to a diagnosis, I suffered serious and repeat sinus infections which I feel was celiac/auto-immune related. This is ongoing. Repeat use of antibiotics is the last thing I want to do – but none of the doctors/specialists are willing to look at the celiac link. Where does a celiac sufferer find knowledgeable medical help and medical support (an informed physician!)? (Feedback welcome!!) Next struggle would be the social aspect – so many gatherings/relationships/social activity involve food! Along with that …. I have been hesitant to resume traveling with my friends and feeling confident I will find safe food! I think the celiac community would benefit from a support group – a place to share information and offer support and education! Thank you! Rant over!
- It impacts every aspect of your life! How you shop, how you look at food, how you cook, bake, etc. Also, meeting friends for drinks and a quick bite to eat is now strenuous. Every time I eat out, I am so scared that I was exposed to gluten and will get sick. Most people are understanding, but it’s hard to feel different and have to ask for special treatment…..
- Hi the most challenging aspect prior to disgnosis was the neurological impact – the brain fog, dizziness, loss of concentration and profound fatigue – I truly thought I was dementing and didn’t feel safe to drive at times. Since diagnosis 2.5 years ago it’s been trying to heal and normalize my titres to no avail even though I am fanatic about no gluten or cross contamination. Now diagnosed as refractory celiac. Neurologically much better but travelling and social events at others’ homes or restaurants are challenging. Oh well life sucks sometimes and then you just move forward and learn to work with what you have.
- The anxiety of going out to eat.
- worrying about being able to eat when on business trips where it is harder to control where dinners are held. Bringing snacks or eating before/after draws attention from employees/prospective employees & takes the conversation away from my qualifications also, having celiac treated like a fad weight loss diet instead of a serious autoimmune disease.
- Social situations
- trusting the restaurant staff when they say “It’s gluten-free.”
- Feeling sick from most gf food. I’ve been sick since I was a baby now I’m 33 and found out only two years ago I had Celiacs. Now I’m on a strict diet the rest of my life of paleo. Everything bloats me nauseates me and inflamed me. I don’t bother eating out or at anyone’s house.
- Your food allergies becoming the topic of conversation at a dinner party because you can not eat most of the food. Then the host feels bad and it’s not their fault. Also my food allergies are the least interesting attribute of mine, but I feel that’s what most people know about me.
- Feeling like an outcast at a cookout or dinner. I haven’t met many people with sensitivities to gluten or celiac disease in my community and I sometimes feel that I am looked at as strange and/or antisocial.
- The way it ravished my body and took me from a size 16 to a size 1.. Depression hit me so hard, I couldn’t believe how much weight I lost.
- I am 43 and have had celiac for 7 years. Sometimes it still amazes me how I can feel left out or sorry for myself bc I can’t just eat anything I want.
- My 7 year old son was recently diagnosed. Thanks for doing this post. It’s so helpful to read other’s thoughts to understand what he is going through.
- The social aspect of food is certainly challenging and heart breaking to see my four year old son feel left out. But, one of the most challenging parts for me is the panic and PTSD that I have when he complains about a tummy ache, leg/joint pain, or has loose stool. I automatically question if he got gluten and then often unnecessarily stress about where he potentially had cross contamination and what implications it has for him. I wish I could take it all away and go through it myself instead.
- Having people say: is a little contamination really gonna matter? What’s actually going to happen?
- Feeling “off” with fatigue and stomach ache often.
- When people think I’m shady, not honest or flaky when I have to cancel plans, am running late, have to reschedule appointments or plans, or can’t show last minute because of the health issues. How many people REALLY want full details of what’s going on in the bathroom when my body is damaged and fighting itself? It’s had a huge effect on my social life and work. Even when people know about health issues, many are still judgmental and completely lacking in tolerance, patience, understanding and sympathy for the daily challenges we face. It’s frustrating.
- Challenges smelling freshly cooked bread and not eating it! Also having people and family around me trying to accommodate me….I don’t like that.i don’t want to be “that person” I can handle my gluten allergy just find.
- as a 15 year old , the most challenging aspect of having celiacs is feeling left out at parties when there is cake or pizza. i also dislike having to ask places like Chipotle to change their gloves/utensils because i feel like i annoy them. The last thing that i feel is challenging is getting people to understand what celiacs is. Many people think i’m just going on a “common white girl gluten free diet” when in reality i have no choice but to be gluten free !
- Being the one in total control of protecting my invisible insides from the scary invisible things in the foods that I eat. No pills, no prescriptions or creams, no antibiotics or bandages; just the best attempt to defend and protect my innards every single time I put something in my mouth.
- Being in college and having celiac is hard. Sometimes I feel like I exclude myself from attending social events, but it’s the fear of getting sick that hold me back. Then there is also all the weird stares or mumbles about why I’m not eating or looking up things on my phone to see if it’s safe to eat or drink.
- Having a child with celiac and seeing her struggle is the hardest thing. Trying not make it a big deal to bring attention to her, but making it a big enough deal that she can one day advocate for herself.
- Dating is the most challenging thing. Deciding at what point to do I drop the celiac bomb on them and trying to make it so they don’t think I’m a freak. By the way… I can’t kiss you if you just had gluten…
- Attending social events hands down is the hardest thing.
- My family and friends think I’m crazy. I swear If I hear “one bite won’t kill you” again, I’m going to scream!
- I worry about the future for my celiac child and the fear that he will develop another illness because he doesn’t take his gluten free diet serious.
- Traveling. Now I have to plan out my entire tip based off where I can eat and pray I don’t get sick and it ruins the trip.
After reading everyone’s responses it made me realize that although we all struggle in different ways, what we do have in common is that we all have challenges when it comes to living with celiac. Sometimes when I stress about certain things relating to this disease, I think “is it in my head?.. No one seems to get it.”…. but after seeing everyone’s responses it helps me feel that I’m not alone!
I want to truly thank everyone who contributed to this list and opened up because I know that can be scary sometimes!
Stay tuned for parts 2-4 throughout the month of May!