I used to roll my eyes when I saw the "gluten-free" stamp plastered on the side of a box. I constantly wondered why it was such a trend, seeing as it's only beneficial to go gluten-free if you have celiac disease, or another gluten intolerance. I never would have guessed that the fad I had once brushed off as hipster and unnecessary would one day become my life.
After almost a year of endless stomach issues, my mom finally forced me to go to the doctor and address my health problems. They tested me for celiac "just to be safe," but never actually expected that would be my diagnosis. As a girl who has inhaled pasta and bread at nearly every meal since she was born, the chance of celiac seemed to be slim.For those who don't know, having celiac disease means that my body treats gluten as a poison and releases antibodies to attack it. In the most basic terms, since it's not actually a poison the antibodies attack my intestinal wall, causing excruciating pain.
I was furious, upset, confused. I had just spent the summer of a lifetime in Italy, practically eating just gluten. I couldn't believe that this was now my reality, that now I could never eat my favorite foods again. I would never be able to stumble over to my favorite pizza joint and inhale three slices in five minutes. I would no longer be able to eat my body weight in fettuccine Alfredo, or order my favorite late night cookies.
Being gluten-free is also super expensive, and as a college student who was already eating mac and cheese for dinner every day, an increase in my weekly spending is the last thing I needed. I mean, how is it cool for regular old gluten-filled pasta to be $0.99 a box, and gluten-free pasta to be $3.99 a box? Wegmans, you know I love you, but that's just cruel.
The first few weeks of my diagnosis were some of the most difficult weeks of my life. While my friends were ordering jumbo slices of pizza and chowing down on Chinese food, I was stuck in the apartment doing research to figure out the best gluten-free alternatives to my favorite snacks. My social life took a huge hit. I was missing out on so many fun activities with my friends because I could no longer eat the food they loved, or help them down a pitcher of beer.
Never mind my diminishing social life, but a major thing they don't tell you when you're diagnosed with celiac is that once you stop eating gluten, you become ten times more sensitive to it. I realized this when I got "glutened" and ended up tremendously sick one afternoon. After this, I started feeling sorry for myself. I was bummed out all the time, staying in more than I ever have before, was irritable, avoiding the people I love, and not behaving like myself.
As the weeks have gone by, I've realized that being a celiac isn't as terrible as I thought it was, and I definitely don't need to be feeling sorry for myself. After only a month, my stomach problems are almost completely gone, I'm more energized than I've ever been, and I'm just happier all around. Turns out that the trend I once made fun of has become a lifesaver because of how many gluten-free alternatives there are these days.Due to the influx in people being diagnosed with celiac disease, and the people who are on the gluten-free diet because it's "healthy," most restaurants are super understanding and willing to make accommodations for your dietary needs. It may be a huge bummer that I'll never be able to eat a bread bowl from Panera again, but I've come to realize that missing out on certain foods is worth it to keep my body happy and healthy. So, my fellow collegiate celiacs, you, me, and our gluten-free rice pasta are in this together. Oh, and at least Chipotle is safely gluten-free.