Living With Celiac By Naomi L. (Age 14)

naomi-littenberg

My name is Naomi and I am 14 years old. I just made the varsity tennis team which is great because I love tennis. I also love my toy poodle, Rocky, and hanging with my friends.

When I was in 4th grade I was diagnosed with celiac disease which means if I ingest gluten it can lead to damage to my small intestine.  Gluten is a protein found in wheat, barley and rye and when eaten, my body will mount an immune response and attack my small intestine. Currently, the only treatment for celiac disease is life long adherence to a strict gluten-free diet. My mom considers me a real foodie which makes having this disease more difficult.

Food is a very social thing. Whether I am hanging out with friends or getting together with family, it usually centers around food. Wherever I go someone offers me food or drink so there is a lot of planning that takes place when I am invited somewhere. I cannot necessarily just pick up and go out to eat spur of the moment. But sometimes I don’t have to worry.  For example, when I go to any of my friends homes, they know about my allergy to gluten and their moms will always have some gluten free options available for me.  That makes me feel very comfortable. I am so grateful they are so considerate and care enough about me to make the extra effort for me to eat at their house.

If I am going to a restaurant, party or event, my mom will usually call ahead and find out what is being served and ask if there are any safe gluten free options. If there aren’t, she will mimic the food being served and send over gluten free things for me to eat. If I have to bring my own food to an event, it can be very uncomfortable if there are people there that don’t know me or my situation. I feel like it is weird to walk in with my own food when everyone else has the freedom to show up and eat what is prepared. On the flip side, there are some wonderful gluten bakeries both in my area and on the web. I am always on the lookout for new and exciting gluten free places to try.

When I was in Middle School, I made honor roll each report card. As a reward, my former school offered an honor roll breakfast complete with all  donuts you can eat. Was great for most of my friends of course, but donuts have gluten so there was nothing for me to eat and I would feel a bit left out. My mom tried to help me when she discovered this problem. In the years that followed, my mom would find out the date of any future honor roll breakfast and drive to my favorite gluten free bakery and pick up donuts so I could walk into the event and eat what everyone else was eating. It made me look forward to those events (especially because my mom would never allow me to eat donuts for breakfast on a regular day!)

Although I realize how important it is for me to adhere to a strict gluten free diet or it will impact my health in a negative way, I am grateful that my mom and dad tell me how incredibly proud they are of the way I’ve handled having celiac.

 

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