My First Introduction to Celiac Disease

For my first 24 years of life I was oblivious to the existence of gluten, and unaware that I was consuming gobs of it on a regular basis. My diet in the year 2000 consisted of pizza, pasta, chicken parm, cookies, brownies, bread, waffles, etc. One of my first medical school lectures in Genetics that year was about Celiac Disease. A tall, red-headed woman with Celiac Disease, who was probably in her early forties at the time, shared her experiences of being a Celiac and living gluten free. She told us the following:

  • When she went to McDonald’s, she had to eat her burger without the bun
  • It was difficult for her to find a gluten free toothpaste, as all the major brands contained gluten
  • It cost $8-$10 for one box of brownie mix
  • Gluten free bread tasted very bad
  • It took her years to get a proper diagnosis of Celiac since she was not underweight
  • She would get extremely ill if she accidentally took one bite of a gluten-containing food

I remember thinking was that I her life was horrible and secretly feeling smug that I did not have to worry about gluten. Every time I hear someone say, “I would rather die than have to give up gluten,” I think back to this lecture and remember feeling the same way. Only now I freely choose to avoid gluten because if I continue to eat it I will die.

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