Summer is wrapping up and right now I am preparing to send my 3 oldest kids, plus a teenage niece, back to school. Due to some pretty significant life changes I have had to put blogging on the back burner for a while. It’s been difficult to do this, as I feel very passionate about spreading Celiac awareness and writing about gluten-related issues. But as I reflect on my summer, I realize that I have had opportunities spread celiac disease awareness, and share information about celiac disease, all summer long. I’ll share a few examples with you, and as you read, I am sure you’ll find that many of you have had similar experiences.
Back in June while we were in Boston we went out to dinner with a group of friends at an Asian restaurant. I was already one day post-glutening, so I went out with no intentions of eating anything, but I was curious to see if the restaurant had any gluten-free menu options. I first spoke to the hostess who was excitedly able to hand me a copy of their brand new gluten-free menu. I was actually the first customer who it was given to as it was hot off the press. As I read through the GF menu I became very confused, as I found that many Asian dishes that are usually gluten-free, like pad thai, were not listed on the GF menu (pad thai was on the regular menu), but many Asian dishes that are almost never gluten-free were on their new GF menu. I was particularly bothered by Udon noodles being on the GF menu, as they are almost always made with wheat flour. I approached the manager and specifically asked him what type of flour the Udon noodles were made of and he quickly replied that they were made in the restaurant out of rice flour only. I was surprised but excited by the possibility of being able to actually eat Udon noodles during a future visit. A few minutes later the manager came over to our table, and said that he was wrong, that the Udon noodles on the GF menu were made of mostly rice flour, but that a little wheat flour was added in as well. We were able to have a nice discussion about how sick I, or anyone else with celiac disease, would have become after eating off of his restaurant’s gluten-free menu. He proceeded to throw all of the gluten-free menus away and promised that his establishment would be much more careful if/when they ever reintroduce a gluten-free menu. Through this experience I was able to spread celiac disease awareness.
I recently went on a job interview, which I knew ahead of time was going to include a lunch, and was told that I didn’t need to worry because the local Au Bon Pain (chain that sells breads, soups, and pastries) had some gluten free options available. I explained that since I have to eat gluten free for medical reasons, that the risk for gluten cross-contamination at Au Bon Pain was too high for me, and that I would not be able to eat there (one of my worst glutening episodes ever was eating GF soup from an Au Bon Pain that was either cross-contaminated and/or mislabeled). I was able to negotiate having the lunch in a much safer environment, where I was able to eat without getting sick, and was ultimately offered the job. I increased awareness by advocating for my own health.
Just this week I ran into a co-worker who was recently diagnosed with celiac disease, and I asked how she was doing. When she replied, “Fine,” I could tell in her eyes that she is really not doing that well, so I specifically asked how the gluten-free diet is going. She broke down and confided to me that she hates having to eat GF, and that she “cheats” all the time, and then feels sick and gets neurologic and psychiatric symptoms and hates her life even more. I was able to listen emphatically, but then we discussed how important it is for her to stay strong and not cheat, so that she does not continue to damage her body and mind. I tried my best to increase awareness.
I have received emails from many of you with questions and numerous messages from people with celiac disease and non-celiac gluten sensitivity who are confused, feel alone, need to vent, etc. I try my best to reply to each and every message that pops up in my in box. By doing this I try to provide support and help to increase awareness.
If life ever calms down a bit I hope to be able to return to writing and posting articles on here, and discussing the latest celiac research like I have in the past, but if it doesn’t, please know that I am here for all of you and that you can reach me via email or Facebook at any time. Although I am never going to be able to dedicate full time efforts to this page, I hope to be able to continue on with it in some capacity. Thank you for your patience and time.