I was only 21 years old when I received the life-changing news. That day, I found out I would never eat another sandwich, cookie, or a piece of pizza again. Can you believe I was actually relieved?
I was exhausted from trying to figure out what was making me so sick. My doctor diagnosed me with celiac disease, a condition where my own body attacks itself every time I eat gluten. Gluten is the protein found in wheat, barley, rye, and most oats. I was relieved to find out that by eliminating gluten, I could have a healthy, full life again. But let’s be honest—gluten seems to be in everything. It was a daunting task to find foods I could safely eat.
I also found that I am not alone. Doctors now believe that about 1 in 133 Americans has celiac disease, but only 1 in 4,700 is ever diagnosed. One reason for this failure to diagnose is that symptoms vary from person to person. In many cases, celiac disease is misdiagnosed as IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome) or Chronic Fatigue. The current tests are still not very accurate, and doctors are just now beginning to understand and research it.
I received my diagnosis 20 years ago, and I am happy to tell you things have changed. Now I am a mother of six children, three of whom also have celiac disease, or gluten intolerance. (It is hereditary.) There are more options now, and we can eat bread, cookies, and pizza. I just have to make them using a substitute flour that is gluten free.
I have been busy in the kitchen these past few years, and I have come up with some great-tasting, gluten-free recipes that I’ve published in my book Irresistibly Gluten Free: Simple Family Favorite Recipes. I’ve also been teaching gluten free cooking classes to help others who are adjusting to this diet.
Recently, I was teaching a cooking class when a friendly lady in her 70s raised her hand and said, “This is not fair! I have been cooking all my life, and now I have to completely learn how to cook again!” I laughed and commented how funny she was. With a smile on her face, she said, “I am not joking. This is just so unfair!” My heart goes out to her, and the many seniors having to “start over” in the kitchen. So why do it? Because we feel better when we do, and that means it’s worth it.