What It’s Like to Be Gluten-Free

February 9, 2018

The gluten-free diet has recently become a popular solution for weight loss and bad health. The lifestyle carries negative connotations causing those who practice it to be ridiculed for doing so, including myself, and four others at Holderness. Although the gluten-free diet has been glorified for several years as a health fad, the people at the root of the diet’s birth, Celiac Disease patients, have not only been overlooked but also lampooned.


Although many assume that I am gluten-free by choice, I suffer from Celiac Disease. This signifies that I must maintain a strict gluten-free diet for the entirety of my life. Celiac is a medical condition with no cure, different from a gluten allergy, which causes gluten to mutilate the intestines and blockades nutrients from being blotted. Essentially, until diagnosis, the patient is slowly nearing the destruction of the GI tract, including the stomach and intestines, and, if untreated, death. When I was twelve, I was suffering from anemia, malnutrition, dehydration, chronic stomach pain, fatigue, delayed growth, and severe weight loss as a result of masked Celiac Disease. This ensued for months before I was finally diagnosed after undergoing an endoscopy and blood tests. My treatment was to cut out gluten from my diet completely. This indicated that I could not consume any wheat, barley, or rye products, which are more common than one may think; gluten can be very smug in recipes. There is not yet an effective cure beyond the gluten-free diet for the disease that three million Americans are facing.


Despite religiously maintaining a gluten-free diet, people with Celiac can still endure strain and agony regularly. I frequently cannot eat without constant stomach pain and fatigue. To this day, I am in contact with gastroenterologists, foraging for a solution to my perpetual Celiac-related complications, and further difficulties. Additionally, about two-thirds of those with the condition develop related medical conditions such as diabetes, or other intestinal issues like appendicitis, lactose intolerance, vitamin deficiencies, GI cancers, infertility, epilepsy, and countless more. The conditions that I have developed after my Celiac diagnosis greatly affect my ability to have a comfortable life at Holderness, where academics, community, and sports should be my main concerns. In the context of Celiac Disease, the gluten-free lifestyle has become perceived as a cure. However, many still suffer from other symptoms and health concerns while maintaining this diet.


Although the popularity of the gluten-free diet has cast a negative light on Celiac victims, we have benefitted from the fad. The sudden awareness of this diet has opened up many food options for gluten free people such as gluten-free bread, pasta, and many other food products. However, I cannot verbalize how frustrating it is to be sneered at for my dietary necessities as a result of awareness of the diet. I see or hear gluten-free quips frequently on social media, and even in Weld (at least a few times a week!). An ongoing joke has been made of people who elect to live a gluten-free lifestyle, by choice or medical need. The banter about the lifestyle has created a popular prejudice that makes the dietary needs of victims of an uncured, potentially life-threatening disorder perceived as superfluous and needy.


Although Celiac is not responsible for as many deaths as other more arduous conditions, and I am very grateful for that, it should be regarded seriously because it’s detrimental to many lives. For those who are gluten-free by choice, keep it simple; you dictate the reputations of all gluten-free lifestyles. For those who participate in the jesting and mocking, recognize that there are members of the Holderness community and the world who grapple with Celiac Disease every day, and will for the rest of our lives.

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