May is Celiac Awareness Month. Celiac Disease is defined by the Canadian Celiac Association as:
“a common disorder that is estimated to affect about one percent of the population. It is a condition in which the absorptive surface of the small intestine is damaged by a substance called gluten. Gluten is a group of proteins present in wheat, rye and barley and their cross bred grains. The damage to the intestine can lead to a variety of symptoms and result in an inability of the body to absorb nutrients such as protein, fat, carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals, which are necessary for good health.”
Our 6 year old daughter was diagnosed 2 years ago and although they say it’s the only disease that is treated by diet alone, it’s not always easy. The diet is very strict, and it’s lifelong: even a crumb of gluten can affect someone with Celiac disease. Sometimes it can feel very stressful and overwhelming.
Supporting a young Celiac family member means …
Carefully researching restaurants that have Celiac friendly menu items … and that a 6-year old will eat! No more quickly stopping to grab a snack or bite to eat while downtown or on vacation.
Preparing our own food and cupcakes to take to every birthday party that we attend. Supporting our daughter who is often disappointed that she can’t eat what the other children are eating.
Supplying the teacher with Gluten Free treats for those days when a child brings birthday cupcakes unannounced.
Working with the teacher to find alternatives for our child when the class does activities or makes crafts with gluten (playdough, cereal, pasta, etc. )
Taking our own food to a friend’s house for dinner so that we don’t have to burden them with the worry of cross contamination. As little as a crumb of gluten can cause symptoms.
Trick or Treating at Halloween and seeing the sadness in her eyes as she puts candies in her bag that she knows she can’t eat. Stocking up on GF alternatives to swap with her once we get home!
Supporting our daughter through the irritability/emotional issues/extreme tiredness that comes with accidentally ingesting gluten. And racking our brains to try to figure out what it could have been, and where we went wrong!
Changing all of her shampoo, lotion, sunscreen, etc to a GF version (which can be trickier to find, and often more expensive).
Working hard to replace our favourite recipes with GF alternatives. It sometimes takes lots of failed attempts before we find one we enjoy. We went through numerous paper thin waffles before finding our recipe!!
Stuffing my pockets with GF candies when we go to the parade. Swapping with our little girl when treats are handed out and she wants to eat one with her friends while watching the parade!
Trying to stay positive when your child says “Mama, I wish that all the food in the world was Gluten Free, and that I could eat what the other kids eat”.
I know that Celiac disease is not the worst that we could be dealing with. But for those who are living with Celiac disease, or supporting a Celiac family member, I see you: I see the time you invest to keep your loved one safe, the worry you suffer, and the emotional impact.
Find out more about Celiac disease from the Canadian Celiac Association.