Why Gut Check? Well, it takes some sort of guts to poke fun at people with any disorder or disease. It takes ignorance to commit to statements that downplay or disregard a persons health; a persons health fact(s). I’m calling it health facts, because that’s what it is. It’s not an issue or a problem, it’s a fact that things happen that affect our health. Examples: New Yorker cartoon (which I just read last night and it made me write this post), lots of links from GlutenDude, and the many posts, via the web, I read about friends and family members not caring to understand the harm gluten can do to someone with CD. All of these articles, interviews, and negative buzz about gluten-free eating bothers me because advocates for celiac disease have worked so hard to bring attention to the disease. It all started with a super mom, Dana Korn, who brought a ton of awareness to CD. In the late 2000’s celiac disease became more mainstream due to her work and many others.
My health fact: in 2002, I was diagnosed with celiac disease (CD). CD is a hereditary, autoimmune disease which affects the small intestine when gluten (glutenin and gliadin protein) is ingested. What is an autoimmune disease? Well, it’s when your immune system treats healthy body tissue the same way it treats harmful substances (antigens). Which means, your body attacks the healthy tissue. CD is hereditary, which means there needs to be a genetic disposition. The genes linked to CD need a trigger to “turn on”, and the trigger is one from an environmental, emotional, or physical event.
We all have little villi that line our small intestine. These little guys absorb the nutrients you consume so you can thrive. When someone who has CD consumes gluten (found in wheat, barley, rye, and other forms) they get sick. Overtime, the villi get damaged, can disappear, and one will not be able to absorb nutrients properly. Examples of “sick” include: malnutrition, dermatitis, gastrointestinal issues, fatigue, anxiety, and the list goes on.
What was my life like before I was diagnosed? I was tired all of the time. I fell asleep in school, doing homework, and practically everywhere else. Many of my friends and family members can attest to this. I was anemic, suffered continuous gastrointestinal distress, and was mildly depressed for several years. I was a runner and had an awful time recovering from workouts. I stuck with shorter distances because my body handled it better. Had I known about CD I would have chosen the longer distances. My stats before CD and gluten-free: 200m PR: 26.68, 400m PR: 59.99, 800m PR: 2:20:00, 5k PR: 21:56, 10 mile PR: 1:29. My stats after my diagnosis and became strictly gluten-free: 800m PR: 2:16, 5k PR 18:34, 12k PR: 50:40, 15k PR: 1:02:00, 10 mile PR (on a training run): 1:12:00, 1/2 Marathon PR: 1:29:43, Marathon PR: 3:23:44. I am not dragging, I rarely take naps, I’m happy, and I have no gastrointestinal distress or symptoms unless I accidentally consume gluten.
Listen, I’m a personal trainer, it’s in my nature to help, empathize, and come up with solutions for people. I am good at it and I enjoy it. I like making people feel comfortable about whatever they are going through. I can understand how others can disregard or poke fun at people with health facts. I understand (excuse the run-on sentence) that it’s also kind of embarrassing when you go out to eat with people and you have to nervously figure out what you possibly could eat, and knowing that either way you go you will bring attention to yourself which is the very last thing you want to do.
Personally, I think some of the diets out there are crazy. However, I have not judged the diets, other than in my head sometimes. I most certainly have not judged the people following those diets. I’d say the only diet that I do not support, and I will express myself loudly about, is a fast food one. I understand that to some, being gluten-free is a choice, therefore making it seem like a fad diet upon which to joke about. Many don’t know that the majority of people who ask for gluten-free, need to be gluten-free for their health. There is no cure for celiac disease and the only way to control the disease, is to maintain a completely gluten-free diet. The majority of people living with CD would rather not be bothered by the diet, but it is a must.
I do love that there are many gluten-free options and that there are a ton of restaurants and food manufacturers who take gluten-free seriously. I feel very fortunate that there are options and CD is fairly publicized now. Given that, I think people with CD need to take responsibility and understand that it is super difficult to eat out somewhere and expect gluten-free, unless of course it is a dedicated gluten-free establishment like Mariposa in San Francisco, CA.
In all honesty, the celiac community doesn’t want to lose it’s momentum in awareness of the disease. We react so strongly because it’s a challenging diet to navigate and we don’t want to lose the progress that has been made. So, let’s have the guts to not poke fun at those who have to be gluten-free due to CD. Let’s have the guts, all of us, to take care of our bodies whether it be gluten-free, vegan, vegetarian, nut-free, or sugar-free.
Gut Check Complete.