USA Today Special Insert on Celiac Disease

The past Friday, May 7, my granddaughter’s birthday, USA Today issued a supplemental insert on celiac disease. If you cannot find a print version of the supplement, you can download it here.

My sincere gratitude and applause to the editors at Media Planet for this comprehensive guide. My only reservation is that, once again, the impression is given that managing the diet is not all that hard, and that when a person sick with celiac disease eliminates the gluten in the diet, perfect health returns. Like a magic wand–wa-la, perfect health and happiness reign.

Reality is not quite like that. Have you seen what happens when you use flour? It goes everywhere!

But the diet is doable, definitely. In fact, if one chooses to eat simply and healthy, it is quite simple indeed. Whole foods–not prepared but from scratch– healthy meat, vegetables, fruits, whole grains such as rice, corn, oats. How many in society actually eat that way? We are dealing with far more than food alone. We are dealing with attitude, convenience, social interaction, and, as my dear gluten-intolerant and witty friend, Dee, has called it: “Food Trauma.”

Take when I recently made a rather sudden trip to visit my mother-in-law. Thankfully it was a driving trip. I have an electric cooler and threw in frozen bread, cookies, a container of turkey, packaged lunch meats. The situation was such that I did not want to have to deal with being ill while away from home–well, all situations are like that. How grateful I am to my sisters-in-law for taking us to Outback Steakhouse during our visit. The Outback has a gluten-free menu! My sisters-in-law watched me, fascinated, as I scarfed up not only a complete steak dinner, but topped off with a Thunder From Down Under, the restaurant’s enormous gluten-free brownie.

For children, the diet is terribly hard. There are all those school parties, lunches, play-dough. Just yesterday I attended my granddaughter’s birthday party. The menu: pizza, birthday cake, and ice cream. Luckily there were no celiac friends, at least not any who knew they had celiac. One of the main things children, and adults, must deal with is the feeling of being different and left out– family get-togethers, dinner parties, church suppers and holy communion. You cannot imagine the anguish to deal with each of these things at the outset of a celiac diagnosis. One is changing an entire lifestyle.

Still, if a person is diagnosed before the age of 21 and recovers on a gluten-free diet, their prognosis is good for full health. If diagnosed after the age of 35, or even worse, at or beyond 50, as I and a majority in the country in the past ten years, there are usually complications of other food allergies and auto-immune diseases. The wonderful saving grace is that once one enters a gluten-free diet, so many body pains and illnesses one thought one had to live with disappear. In the words of a friend who found going gluten-free cured her migraines: “I will never go back to eating gluten.”

In my next post, I will give a glimpse of what celiac disease is like for me on a daily basis. Plus, I really must speak about my upcoming book!