LAURA

Jul 14, 2013

Gluten free diets are all the rage now, not only in Hollywood, but in our own neighborhoods. Many claim benefits such as weight loss, better digestion, more energy, and an all-around better feeling body. Before it became a popular diet fad, people who lived a gluten free lifestyle were sparse and most likely sufferers of Celiac Disease, an autoimmune digestive ailment.

According to the Mayo Clinic the small intestine is lined with tiny hair-like projections called villi, which work to absorb vitamins, minerals and other nutrients from the food. Celiac Disease damages the villi, leaving a person’s body unable to absorb nutrients necessary for health. Early signs and symptoms of Celiac can vary greatly, but can include stomach pain, bloating, gas, decreased appetite, weight loss, intermittent or constant diarrhea, nausea, and/or vomiting. Long-term symptoms include easy bruising, hair loss, missed menstrual periods, fatigue and joint pain, and itchy skin.

Laura, now twenty-nine, was diagnosed with Celiac Disease at the age of nineteen. “Growing up I always had a stomach ache,” Laura says. “Sometimes I would have these terrible pains and I was barely able to breathe becuase I was in so much pain.” The pains started around third grade. Laura’s parents took her to the doctor numerous times throughout her childhood. She was prescribed medicine and told to write down what she ate. Her mom started to keep track of when she complained or when she would go to the school nurse with a stomach ache.  There was never a pattern of what Laura had eaten in relation to when her stomach hurt.

“When I was 19, I can remember crawling into my parents' bedroom. I was in so much pain,” Laura said.  Laura and her parents finally went to meet with a gastroenterologist.  The gastroenterologist ordered Laura to have an endoscopy and a biopsy done, and blood work to follow up. She explains of the diagnosis process, “There are certain levels of something in the blood they look for, and even though the endoscopy showed that, yes, I did have Celiac Disease, the blood work confirmed that my levels were off the charts.” Celiac Disease can be confused with irritable bowel syndrome, Crohn’s disease, diverticulitis, intestinal infections, and chronic fatigue syndrome. Medical research shows that 1 in 141 people in the United States is affected by Celiac Disease, but most go undiagnosed.

“I was confused,” Laura said. “Then I was angry.  All of a sudden I was different, in my second semester of college; I couldn't eat everything I'd been accustomed to eating my whole life.  Watching my friends enjoy all the foods I loved that I suddenly couldn't was very hard.” Laura set off to start a gluten free diet, but was often confused about what she could or could not eat.  “I had to start really thinking about what I was eating and start reading all the ingredients.  I didn't care a lot of the time still and ate whatever I wanted.” Those with Celiac not following a strict gluten free diet may experience severe stomach aches and pains and digestive issues. Not only was Laura facing a change of diet, but also a change of lifestyle. Gluten is found in many common products that we eat every day. Not only is gluten (a protein) found in wheat, barley, and rye, but can also be found in malt flavoring, caramel coloring, beer, and oats. In addition, Laura cannot eat breads, bagels, cookies, cakes, pasta, and many cereals.


Ten years after her diagnosis Laura still has to make special accommodations. “Sometimes it's still hard to go places. Going out to eat is easier now, though, I can usually at least always get a salad if all else fails,” she says.  Being invited to some of life’s most common celebrations can pose a problem. “Being invited places, being in weddings, bridal showers, baby showers, birthday parties, are difficult because most of the time there isn't something I can eat,” says Laura. Even if the hosts knows she has Celiac many still don't understand what gluten is or what it is found in. “A lot of times I eat before I go somewhere just in case, or throw a protein bar or something into my purse.” When Laura goes out to eat she usually sticks to ordering salads, burgers without the bun, grilled chicken, steak, and vegetables – no pasta and nothing breaded. “Many restaurants are adding gluten-free choices to their menus as more people become aware and it becomes more of a ‘fad,” says mom to two-year-old Cason.  There is always the chance that Laura may eat something she thinks it gluten free but is not because of the added seasonings. A quick bite on the run is usually a challenge too.

There is also a price attached to Celiac Disease. Laura gets easily frustrated by how expensive eating gluten free can be. A generic loaf of bread at the grocery store can be averaged to be priced at less than one dollar. A package of gluten free bread is estimated at about $5.49 – and the loaf has half the amount of slices of the regular loaf of bread. Laura says, “The bagels I get are $6.49 for four bagels!” When Laura was diagnosed 10 years ago, not many people knew about the gluten free lifestyle and gluten free food was not very appetizing (Laura describes it as tasting like cardboard covered in saw dust).  Now, there are more big name manufacturers developing gluten free products which makes it easier to shop and eat gluten free.  Laura has actually found some go to gluten free brands including Udi's and Glutino. “Why anyone would go gluten free without having to be is completely beyond me.  It's not a fad for me.  It was forced and sometimes that's very frustrating.”

On top of her Celiac Disease Laura is highly allergic to apples, peaches, and plums. Other fruits can also bother her, but she can’t pin point which ones and on which given day a reaction could occur.  She has also developed other food allergies which may or may not be related to Celiac. Laura also has Gastroperesis, which means she digests food more slowly than most.

Laura recently had another endoscopy and more blood work as a part of her continuing care. Her levels were all normal which means her gluten free lifestyle has been beneficial and healed the damage that had been done to her small intestine. Laura says of her disease, “Many people misunderstand and think Celiac Disease is an allergy.  It's an intolerance; an autoimmune disease that causes malabsorbtion of the nutrients.”  She supplements her diet with vitamins to ensure she is getting all the nutrients she needs. “I actually feel a lot better without gluten.”

Kudos to Laura for keeping up her gluten free lifestyle and keeping herself healthy for 10 years (and having an absolute adorbs son)!

To learn more about Celiac Disease check out http://americanceliac.org/celiac-disease/.

If you would like to share your story on A Cute Angle please e-mail BloggerAsh703@gmail.com or visit http://www.facebook.com/ACuteLifestyle.




Lar and Me in 2005! We go way back.
 

3 comments:

  1. I ADORE your blog. Your posts are fabulous; such a great way to feature inspiring and real women, like Laura. Love it!

    xo,
    Steph
    Diary of a Debutante
    www.stephanieziajka.blogspot.com

    ReplyDelete
  2. Laura is still a beauty and I love her son!!! How adorable is he !!!!

    ReplyDelete
  3. Wow she is beautiful and what a story.
    Love your blog - just stumbled upon it! Thanks for sharing inspiring stories of amazing women!

    XO
    Erin

    www.sweetnessitself.com

    ReplyDelete

 
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