F is for FAQs

When and how were you diagnosed? 

I was diagnosed with celiac a couple months after my seventeenth birthday, on May 23. (Fitting, since May is celiac disease awareness month). I have had a sensitive stomach for as long as I can remember, but my symptoms started escalating around Christmas of 2016, and after going to the doctor I was told to take an antacid for a couple of weeks and see if I get any better. They also wanted to get an ultrasound to make sure the sharp pains I was having were not in my ovaries. As you may have guessed, the antacids didn’t work and I continued to get worse.

Then the doctor’s office called with the ultrasound results. It showed my ovaries were fine, but it also showed that I had a fatty liver, a condition usually found in people who are overweight or have diabetes. I was referred to a gastroenterologist, who decided I should have an endoscopy. An endoscopy is a fun procedure where they stick a camera down your throat, into your esophagus, through your stomach, and into your small intestine to see what’s going on.  It’s not as bad as it sounds, mostly because you’re asleep the whole time. To get the results of the endoscopy, we went back to the doctor –  for what seemed like the millionth time – and we finally got a result. Before we saw the doctor, the nurse came in and gave us a pad of paper, saying, “You’re going to want to write stuff down.” My mom and I looked at each other with confused expressions, but we knew we were in for an interesting doctor’s visit. When the doctor came in, she said what I was experiencing was not heartburn, but celiac disease. We were given a whole packet of information on what I could and couldn’t eat, the changes I had to make, and the first steps we should take when dealing with celiac.

What were your symptoms? 

Sharp stomach pains, irregular bowel movements, frequent nausea, fatigue, and anxiety. Celiac disease has so many symptoms that you should not diagnose yourself or base your diagnosis on my symptoms. But if you have any symptoms, you should visit your doctor.  

What is celiac? 

Celiac is in fact not a food allergy, but an auto-immune disease, where your body – in reaction to eating gluten – starts to destroy your small intestine. 

What is gluten? 

Gluten is a protein found most commonly in wheat but is also in rye, barley, and malt.

Most people think gluten is just found in carbohydrates, like bread and pasta. But gluten is also found in everyday things like soy sauce, candies, and lunch meats – just to name a few. For a whole list of foods containing gluten, see these websites: 

Celiac Disease Foundation- Sources of Gluten 

American Diabetes Association- What Foods Have Gluten?

When did you go vegetarian?

I went vegetarian shortly after the New Year, before I was diagnosed. I had never really liked meat- (the taste or texture)- or the impact that eating meat has on the environment. After going vegetarian, I can safely say I have never craved or missed meat. Therefore, my meals will be mainly vegetarian, but I will occasionally add a meat option because I know there are many people out there with Celiac Disease who still eat meat. 🙂

What do you eat most of the time?

I mainly stick to the following foods; vegetables, fruits, beans, rice, quinoa, potatoes, and nuts. I do eat small amounts of dairy, mainly when I eat out, but I try and avoid it since I am lactose-intolerant. 

How do you deal with giving up foods that contain gluten?

Most of the time I don’t really mind not eating things that everyone else is eating, especially because I know that it would hurt me. There are also a lot of great substitutions for gluten-containing food. If I had one food that I could go back and eat for the last time it would be rainbow bagels from Brooklyn, NY. When we went to go get them the line was too long, so we decided we would come back another time, then I was diagnosed, so rainbow bagels will not be in my future.

How do you deal with having Celiac Disease in college?

I am so fortunate to have a dorm with a kitchen for my first year of college. I know others at my school have not been so lucky (some dorms have one kitchen per floor), and I’ve heard stories about students having trouble finding gluten-free options on campus. I do have some recipes that require a kitchen, but I also try to include microwave-friendly recipes as much as I can to accommodate whatever type of facilities/appliances you have.