Gluten-Free! But I’m Italian

Yes, that was my reaction ten years ago when I was first diagnosed with celiac disease. It was a shock.  I had grown up on pasta. I was the one who always went back for seconds. How could I possibly live without pasta and bread? I admit that I went into denial for about a month.

What snapped me out of it? Research. I went online and read everything I could about celiac disease, and I realized I wasn’t alone. In the United States, 1 in 133 people have celiac disease. Knowing that I wasn’t the only one struggling with this, helped me so much.

Once I realized my world wasn’t going to end because of celiac disease, I got back on my feet and went to see a nutritionist. For those of you who don’t know anything about celiac disease, it means that I cannot eat wheat, rye, barley or oats. Avoiding wheat is not the easiest thing to do. The nutritionist showed me how to read labels and I called a lot of companies to ask questions about certain ingredients. I find I still have to make calls at times, but I’ve gotten better at reading labels over the years. It also has become a lot easier to find gluten-free products.

While eating in restaurants can be difficult at times, most restaurants either have a gluten-free menu or have heard of celiac disease and can accommodate me. That was not the case ten years ago. Eating out was a complete nightmare. No one knew about celiac disease or gluten. I would try to explain to the restaurant staff, but most times ended up eating a salad. It may sound odd, but I didn’t feel like a normal person every time I went out to eat. Restaurants have come a long way. I can even order gluten-free pizza now. I never thought that would be possible.

So here I am ten years and counting. It hasn’t always been easy, but I’m so grateful for my diagnosis. I’m not sure I would be here today had the doctor not discovered that I had celiac disease.

To those who have been recently diagnosed, know that you’re not alone and that, while you may struggle in the beginning, it will get easier. You will regain your health and your life.

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