How I found out I have celiac disease-- and how I live with it now

10:43:00 AM

Before I was diagnosed with celiac disease I was the biggest carbaholic  you've ever met. Favorite foods? Macaroni and cheese and cupcakes. I love sugar and my family is Italian so baked goods and pasta were my jam.

For those of you that don't know, celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder that doesn't allow your body to process wheat, barley, or rye properly.

I had never had much of an issue until my sophomore year of college when my body began to revolt. I noticed I was gaining weight, had cellulite for the first time, was constantly bloated, and had diarrhea almost every day (gross, but this is educational so bear with me.) I felt like crap and despite working out as much as ever, if not MORE, I was still gaining weight. I didn't eat particularly healthy food, but I also wasn't eating a lot so it didn't make sense to me. (The internet also says there are 200+ symptoms, so everyone is completely different.)

After dealing with spinal issues for so many years (read more about that here), I have become hyper-aware of any potential health problems I may have (me and WebMD are bffs). I did an incredible amount of online research and concluded that I likely had a gluten allergy.

Gluten free pizza at Keste in NYC with prosciutto 

I went to my primary care physician for a simple blood test and got a call a couple of days later confirming my suspicions: I have celiac disease. It's helpful to note that the only way the test will come back positive is if you have gluten in your current diet, so keep on eating that bread while you can!

There's definitely an adjustment period after being told that gluten is off limits. My first couple of trips to the grocery store took hours at a time, no joke, because I had to go through and read the labels on basically everything but produce. Gluten is sneaky and it'll show up in things you'd never expect like pasta sauce and salad dressing and sometimes even coffee drinks.

It became immediately clear that my grocery budget was going to have to increase. A box of gluten free noodles, for example, can easily cost at least double the price of regular noodles. It's not ideal, but I've found it's less expensive if you opt for foods that are already gluten free (rice, potatoes, etc.) as opposed to foods made specifically to be gluten free.

(More) gluten free pizza at Keste in NYC -- I seriously love this place

To dispel a little myth, simply eating gluten free is not going to make you lose weight. There are substitutions for most gluten-laden foods like pizza or pasta have the same amount of calories as the regular stuff. They're usually made up of corn and rice which aren't exactly healthy.

If you're looking to go gluten free to fulfill a trend, don't. While gluten isn't necessarily good for you, I'd also argue that it's the foods themselves like bread and cake that are made up of carbs and simple sugars that aren't so healthy. That shouldn't be a surprise to anyone.

Often dieting will involve eating gluten free just because you're cutting out a lot of the carbs you may be used to eating, but thinking you'll lose weight just because you bought a box of gluten free pasta vs. regular is just silly.

The hardest part of being on a gluten free diet is hands down the struggle of eating out. I very rarely mess up when I'm at home because I know what I can eat, but you have no idea what you're getting at a restaurant. Usually when I'm eating out at a new place I pretty much accept that I'll be getting sick.

When I eat out at a new place for the first time I usually make sure to obsess over their Yelp page to make sure I know what I can eat beforehand. I hate the idea of being a high maintenance celiac, but sometimes there's no helping it. So many people in the food industry are still unaware of the ins and outs of the disease, but man do I love it when they know about it and can point me in the right direction.

Gluten free Nutella crepes in Charleston

I would highly recommend that you make a visit to your doctor if you think you may have celiac because the long term effects of not knowing can be serious. I've developed anemia and have to take iron supplements, but it can be much worse.

I'm super lucky with my celiac because it's no where near as bad as some people's is. I'm able to keep small amounts in my diet (like I can lick the frosting off of a regular cupcake, but would never take a bite of the cupcake.) Some people have it so bad that they can't even eat food that was cooked on the same surface as gluten-containing food.

I hope this has been a helpful (albeit longwinded) insight into my life with celiac disease. If you have any questions feel free to reach out! I've also put together some of my favorite gluten free foods below.

Gluten free cupcake from Gigi's

Food Recommendations:

Pizza: Domino's for an easy fix, or Kesté in NYC for the best GF pizza I've ever had
Cereal: This is actually fairly easy because a bunch of the General Mills cereals just made the switch to being GF friendly like Cheerios. This way they're at the same price as always too!
Mac & Cheese: Horizon Gluten Free Mac n' Cheese -- be careful, though! Their GF and regular macaroni look almost identical at first glance
Pretzels: Snyders! SO good. Better than regular, in my opinion.
Chicken Tenders: Perdue Gluten Free Chicken Tenders. Again, even better than the regular!
Flour: Cup 4 Cup Gluten Free Flour; it's the best GF flour I've ever found on the shelves-- and I've tried quite a few.
Pasta: They're all pretty decent! I did have some homemade fresh GF pasta once though that was to die for. I'd check Earth Fare if you're looking to treat yourself.
Bread: Udi's, Glutino, and Trader Joe's all make a decent bread. Just know that you have to keep it refrigerated.

I am NOT kidding when I tell you I'm obsessed with this place!

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