Why People Should Take Celiac Disease Seriously

And Why We Should All Stop Joking About Gluten

I wish that I could say the first day of 2017 started out great. I wish I could say a lot of things. Things like "want to stay in tonight and order pizza?" and "let's go get donuts and coffee for breakfast." Sadly, 2017 did not start off great at all, and I can not bring any foods or drinks with wheat, barley, or rye into my house, and neither can the rest of my family or friends. 

The night of New Years Eve began with my four sisters, my mom, my dad, and a family that we've grown close to in the past several years all were meeting up at a swing-dancing club in Downtown Dallas. My whole family spent hours dancing and enjoying live jazz music on the 2nd floor of a dimly lit dance hall, and up until about 1:30 AM, everyone was beaming with excitement and joy. 

My mom, diagnosed with celiac disease, started to feel weird and sick to her stomach on the drive back to the hotel. She was acting really tipsy, which was weird, considering she had only drank about 8 ounces of white wine. She started to question whether the wine she had was watered-down with beer, whether she had gotten cross-contamination in something she ate earlier, and even whether one of the older men behind her had slipped something into her drink when she set it down for a brief moment.

Once we got to the hotel, she was violently throwing up and couldn't even stand up off of the bathroom floor. Less than forty minutes later (still on the bathroom floor) she threw up the medicine my dad gave her, was convulsing, and started losing consciousness. Her lips were turning blue and she was sobbing, asking my dad to take her to the nearby hospital. 

Fast forward to four in the morning on January 1st, and she was finally admitted and given an IV drip and some anti-nausea medicine. Later that morning, my dad brought her back to the hotel and they slept until that evening. It wasn't until that night that she realized the "fresh" balsamic vinegar that she sprinkled onto her salad earlier the previous day had contained wheat, used as a thickening agent for the dressing. There was no ingredient label on the bottle, and the sales associate at the store answered her questions about the possibility of it containing gluten with a careless "yeah, it's gluten free.

Celiac Disease is an auto-immune disease that causes a thing called villi to flatten out in your small intestine after you digest wheat, barley, or rye. This causes extreme damage to the small intestine, and when an alcoholic drink is consumed during this process, the alcohol doesn't have time to process through the digestive system and goes straight into the bloodstream. This is why she was so tipsy so quickly, and that small amount of alcohol along with the unknowingly consumed gluten basically put her body into shock. 

I'm tired of movies and television shows making fun of people who eat gluten free, whether it be by choice or by necessity. I'm annoyed with the controversy over gluten free communion in churches. Mostly, I'm sad that my mom will never get to eat her mother's amazing cinnamon rolls again, she'll never go with me to my favorite diner or try a new Starbucks drink, and I'm especially sad that what was an amazingly memorable night turned into one of the most terrifying and stressful nights my family has ever experienced.

Honestly, I don't have anything to complain about. I went to Panera for bread and soup just a few hours ago. I simply want more people to be socially aware that not everyone can eat gluten, and when they don't; that doesn't make them a self-entitled snob. The only entitled-behaving individuals in this situation are the ones that assume they get any say in how people with this autoimmune disease take care of themselves and what they do and do not eat.

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Why People Should Take Celiac Disease Seriously
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