Coping With Celiac Disease

Article by Laura Weaver

Celiac Disease, which I have, is a chronic digestive disorder where the body no longer produces the enzyme needed to break down glutens in foods. Reasons for this vary, but it is believed stress is the culprit. When glutens are ingested, the inability to digest them causes the finger-like projections in the small intestine to break off, ultimately causing an absorption problem with all foods eaten until these Celia grow back, usually in about three to four days.

Controlling Celiac Disease is strict diet control, eliminating all glutens. If I happen to eat something which contains gluten, I pay the price by experiencing extreme stomach pain, cramps, and severe diarrhea which is sometimes accompanied by vomiting which lasts for several days. Complications from such an episode include dehydration, fatigue, weakness, muscle cramps, memory lapse, thought process difficulty, and the inability to absorb nutrients from “safe” foods. Too many episodes of a Celiac Disease relapse raise the risk of stomach cancer. Recovering from an episode takes several days for the symptoms to subside and a week or more to be able to eat regularly again. For some reason, when I accidentally eat something which contains glutens, I can’t hold any food at all, or even water.

Watching my diet is relatively easy at home. I have learned to keep my foods and utensils labeled with my name and kept separate from my family’s foods; i.e., I have my own butter dish; my own peanut butter jar; my own jelly. To prevent cross-contamination, no one but myself uses these items. In addition, I have my own cooking utensils. I use a separate spatula for my eggs, both in preparing and serving.

Fresh fruits, vegetables, rice, potatoes, and even chocolate are “safe” gluten-free foods. Strangely enough, low-fat items contain glutens when the fattening version does not. Of course breads are no-no’s, but there are rice breads available. There are also other gluten-free items available, including rice or corn pastas. Finding these gluten-free items can be a problem. Of course, most health food stores have some gluten-free products, as well as some groceries. Ordering directly from the company is possible, but shipping is extremely expensive because gluten-free foods have no preservatives, so overnight or refrigerated/frozen transportation is the best way to deliver.

I often run into problems when eating out or eating at “pot luck” dinners with friends. I pay the price with the so-called cross-contamination issues. Even when I check with the restaurant or host as to recipe ingredients of dishes, I risk getting ill simply because there is powdery flour from another food floating in the air and landing on my food; or the same utensil was used for serving battered foods and mine; or someone accidentally and unknowingly dropped minute bread crumbs into the dish I can eat.

Having Celiac Disease is, at most, a life-changing experience and at least, inconvenient. Living with this condition is bearable with a support system of those who understand your condition and realize the importance of staying gluten-free. Remember, you aren’t being picky, you’re staying healthy.

Nearly one percent of the people in the U.S. has this disease, so you undoubtedly know someone who may need your support. The author recommends the gift of a lovely fruit basket for your loved ones who have Celiac Disease.

Laura Weaver is a freelance writer who suffers from Celiac Disease. Nearly one percent of the people in the U.S. has this disease, so you undoubtedly know someone who may need your support. The author recommends the gift of a lovely fruit basket for your loved ones who have Celiac Disease.

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