Monday, May 1, 2017
May is Celiac Awareness Month
May is Celiac Awareness Month, and this is a subject close to my heart.
Pip was diagnosed with Celiac Disease--an autoimmune disorder triggered by ingesting gluten protein--just after she turned five. This was after more than two years of stomach aches that were ignored and glossed over, because she was still playing and growing and learning. There were no other glaring outward symptoms. I knew something was not right, but the list of short-term dietary changes I made didn't seem to make a difference for her. Two pediatricians looked at her and her charts and said, "let's wait and see." A third doc in a third city heard what I was saying, ordered some tests, and found the markers in the blood work. A pediatric GI confirmed the diagnosis.
The first month--which happened to be right at the winter holiday season--was really hard. Pip was frustrated when she didn't get to eat the same dessert or snack as everyone else. I didn't know how to make anything gluten free that tasted good, and I certainly didn't yet know which packaged GF products were the most palatable. I read every label. I asked every host what was in every dish. We practically stopped going out to eat due to fear of cross-contamination.
Over time, things got easier. I found a variety of foods and meals that were gluten free that Pip--and our whole family--enjoyed. I started packing her a lunchbox every time we left the house. I quickly realized how fortunate we were that this disorder is managed entirely by diet, no medication required. As long as we're vigilant and she's not ingesting gluten, she's healthy. At seven and a half years old, she's her own advocate, making sure that any new foods--and all foods served outside our home--are safe for her. She's a champ about it, too. She'll even ask me, when she's about to eat something new to her, "Mom, are you sure this is gluten free?"
Now, she's growing like a weed. She's a ball of constant energy. Where a little virus used to take her out for more than a week due to an already-taxed immune system, she's generally quite healthy.
As I said, May is Celiac Awareness Month. I've learned a lot about Celiac out of necessity in the past two and a half years, and the damage it does to your insides is not worth going undiagnosed. There are many potential outward symptoms, and people are affected in different ways. If you suspect that you or someone you love has Celiac Disease, please request the blood test to rule it out (or to indicate that further testing is needed). Although I'm glad we caught it when we did, I wish we had done it sooner.
A great resource for more information--before and after diagnosis--is Celiac.org.