“You have celiac disease!”
I picked up the phone in my office three days after a colonoscopy. “Ms. Errington,” the receptionist said. “The doctor would like you to know that you have celiac disease and we are making an appointment for you at the local hospital. Would two weeks from now be all right?” “Wait a minute,” I said. “What did you just say I had and would you please spell it?” She did spell it and proceeded to tell me that the dietician at the hospital would explain everything at my appointment.
OK, so I’m in shock for a second or two. What in the world is celiac disease? I know I have had a lot of problems for several years, enduring my second colonoscopy and an endoscopy 10 years ago.
Immediately, I went to the Internet for answers. I was fairly calm when I read “Celiac Disease, also known as gluten intolerance, is a genetic disorder that affects 1 in 133 Americans. “Symptoms of celiac disease can range from classic features such as diarrhea, weight loss, and malnutrition, to latent symptoms such as isolated nutrient deficiencies but no gastrointestinal symptoms.” Basically you have to stay away from wheat. oats, barley and rye. Great. I can live without that stuff, no big deal. Wrong! Little did I know what a real problem I was facing. As a newly diagnosed celiac, I was like a fish out of water.
The first words from the dietician were “no bread, cakes, cookies, pasta, pizza, beer.” “Stop,” I said. “Back up a bit. Let’s go over this real slowly.” To my horror, celiac disease was getting ready to turn my world upside down. You see I’m a bread person. I love bread, any and all kinds. I love to cook, bake, grill and have even catered three weddings. So, now I can cook just like I always have; I just can’t eat it. This is suddenly becoming very depressing. But to my surprise that was only the beginning. I went to the grocery store and spent almost two hours reading labels. Almost everything has a least one of the ingredients I can’t have. Then there is that deceiving word, modified food starch.
Well, seventeen months have passed since that phone call. I am coping very well for a new celiac. I still miss real bread, but there are substitutes made with rice flour. I toast all my sliced white bread which makes it more tolerable plus it will hold a hamburger with chili and slaw. I sometimes dream of eating a Krispy Kream donut or a big slice of Papa John’s pizza. So far, I have not found a substitute for their taste. It’s hard to bypass the buffet table at parties for fear of eating something I shouldn’t. I miss going to restaurants with my friends but some restaurants now have a gluten-free menu. All in all, I think I am doing pretty well. I have the support of my family and they never mention that I just served them lasagna with noodles made of rice flour.
If you have recently been diagnosed with celiac disease, the first thing to do is find a support group. They are all across the country. It helps to be able to talk to someone who has already adjusted to this new diet and way of living. If you think you might have celiac disease, please see your doctor. I am thankful that my many years of health problems are now corrected. I still eat good food, just prepared in a different way.
To my family and friends, “Bon Appetit” and hold the bread!
Does this story sound similar to your or a family members? You might have celiac disease, find out now, take our celiac disease symptoms checklist.