Hi there. My name is Paige. I’m 33 years old and I have been living with Celiac Disease, since 1997. Which means, I have been avoiding all things wheat, oats, barley, and rye, the primary carriers of gluten for almost half my life, now. I was 17 years old when I was diagnosed with Celiac, which according to my gastro-intestinal doctor is pretty young considering most people don’t display symptoms until their late 20s or early 30s. I suppose I was just ahead of the curve or at least a little more self aware of what my body was trying to tell me because if you have Celiac, you know that the symptoms aren’t always obvious.
What I’d like to do with this blog is share those experiences with all the newbie’s out there. For those who have recently been diagnosed with Celiac or maybe just prefer being gluten-free, I have lots of wisdoms to bestow upon you. Oh yes! Wisdom! But seriously, my path to following the gluten free diet which is now praised by many was definitely not as simple as finding a “gluten free” symbol on packages of food. I have been at this a long time and know all the tricks to making food work for you. It’s definitely not the enemy. It’s delicious! Also, I don’t know about you but I can’t stand talking about the way I eat every time I…well eat, so I’d like to also tell you about all the ways I approach cooking, grocery shopping, dining out, attending dinner parties, traveling, and pretty much any other daily life situation that food pops up in. Basically, I have figured out a way to eat without making my small intestine a topic of conversation, at least not every time. So, I thought I’d share.
I live in Los Angeles and do fashion PR for a living. When I’m not deciding what to eat next, I am thinking about what I’m doing over the weekend, with who, and what I’ll be wearing for it all.
Now before I get too ahead of myself, I thought I’d share how I figured out that I had celiac because it wasn’t the most common diagnosis at the time or even now really, so with that in mind, here it goes.
As I’ve already mentioned the year was 1997, I was your typical 90s teenager, who was obsessed with eating all things “high in carb, low in fat” like Snack Wells and bagels. Oh how I miss bagels. It was my senior year of high school, I was working as a hostess at a restaurant, and pretty much going through the regular stresses of being a misunderstood teenage girl who was applying to colleges and figuring out what was next after graduation. It was during this oh so stressful time that I started having major stomach problems. I am talking I felt as if I had a full air balloon inside my stomach and even more TMI kind of pain so I’ll spare you the details and offer you this link to elaborate a little more on what I was feeling before I finally went to my doctor.
My general practitioner did a series of tests and eventually came up with the following three possibilities: Lactose Intolerant, Acid Reflux, or Irritable Bowel Syndrome. I was not thrilled with any of these options, especially one with the word “Bowel” in it. But anyway, I tried eating and drinking in accordance to all of the three possible diagnoses but alas the symptoms prevailed, so I went back to my doctor. She decided to refer me to a gastrointestinal doctor, who after some blood work and an eventual endoscopy diagnosed me with Celiac Disease. And, that was that. No more: bread, pasta, beer, pizza, pretzels, chocolate chip cookie dough, BAGELS…needless to say this took some time to process but in all honesty, it was relief to finally just know what the F was going on.
And then, I went to college. Lucky for me, I went to University of Colorado, Boulder. Aside from being beautiful, Boulder is notorious for being very pro-alternative lifestyles. Very “Nuts & Berries” as my Dad would call it, so it was the perfect city to cradle me in my delicate stages of eating gluten-free. Sarcasm aside, it was a pain trying to figure out what I could and could not eat at a time when most people had never even heard the word celiac, let alone gluten. For this reason, I took to simply saying, “I have a wheat allergy.” To which most college kid’s response was, “You’re allergic to weed?” “No. WHEAT.” Then all the really awesome questions would ensue like “What do you eat?” or “No. Really. What do you eat?” “Can you eat bread? OMG. You can’t eat bread? I don’t know what I’d do if I couldn’t eat bread?!”
Needless to say college was a very interesting time to be diagnosed with such a challenging dietary plan but when the alternative is balling up in the fetal position with horrendous cramps while waiting to digest the slice of pizza you just ate or worse, running to the bathroom in the divy college bar with no toilet paper seats or toilet paper for that matter, saying I was allergic to wheat wasn’t so bad after-all. Bottom line is as difficult of an adjustment as it was, once I got my routine down on my eating, shopping and ordering habits, I felt immediate improvements.
So, now that you have my story, I hopefully have sufficiently convinced you that I do in fact have celiac and that you’re about to get lots of info on how to deal with it without even thinking about it…really.