This article originally appeared in the Summer 2004 edition of Celiac.com's Journal of Gluten-Sensitivity.
Celiac.com 06/08/2010 - At first, a diagnosis of celiac disease can be daunting, to say the least, and for some people, even devastating. It means giving up some of your favorite foods—pastas, breads, pizzas, cakes, cookies, and pretzels—at least as you used to know them. So why should you consider yourself lucky if you’ve been diagnosed with celiac disease? Because you’ve been given the key to better health.
Okay, so I’ve never been good at saving the punch line for the end. It’s true, though, you DO have the key to better health: A gluten-free diet.
Still not feeling like you just won the lottery? Well, consider this: Celiac disease is the most common genetic disease of humankind—yet for every person diagnosed with celiac disease, 140 go undiagnosed. They may still suffer from gastrointestinal distress, headaches, depression, joint pain, or other symptoms. Many are told they have “irritable bowel syndrome,” fibromyalgia, or chronic fatigue syndrome—and that there’s nothing that can be done for them. “Go forth and live your life in misery,” is, in essence, their lifetime sentence. You, however, know that simply a dietary modification (no, I didn’t say a “simple dietary modification,” and you’re probably acutely aware of the difference) is the key to better health.
The gluten-free diet is a medical necessity for our family, but it is also a healthy way of life. Sometimes I used to think, “If only I could not have to worry about making tonight’s meal gluten-free, I’d make…” What? What would I make?!? Would I make macaroni and cheese from a box? Ick! Would I make spaghetti? So what! The gluten-free stuff is just as good these days. Would I make a quick trip to Kentucky Fried Chicken or a pizza place? Oh, now there’s a healthy meal (well okay, every now and then maybe!).
People often tell me they find the cost of the gluten-free diet to be prohibitive. True, the cost of a loaf of gluten-free bread could buy you an entire meal in some restaurants…but think of this: What if your condition required prescription medication? The cost of even some of the cheapest medications could buy (at least) a loaf of gluten-free bread each day.
We are fortunate to live in a time when celiac awareness is at an all-time high. Gluten-free foods are delicious and readily available (even the “PollyDanna” in me couldn’t have said that with so much conviction 13 years ago when we first began this lifestyle!). These days, customer service reps on the other end of the toll-free lines at food companies actually know what we’re talking about when we ask if their products are gluten-free. Excellent cookbooks and resource books abound, as do support groups and seminars.
Yes, if you’ve been diagnosed with celiac disease, you can consider yourself lucky for a number of reasons. If you’ve read my books or heard me speak, you know my mantra, so sing it with me now: “Deal with it…don’t dwell on it!” Before long, you too will realize how very lucky you are.