Thursday, September 15, 2011

Celiac Awareness

Tuesday was Celiac Awareness Day, but the good news is that “awareness” of a gluten-free diet and lifestyle has exploded with growth since I was diagnosed with celiac disease almost 15 years ago.

We asked the question on Facebook, how has increased awareness improved your gluten-free life. For me, I am so excited by the depth and breadth of products in the freezer section and on the store shelves. With two members of my household on a gluten-free diet, it is fantastic that I don’t have to order everything online anymore.

I love the fact that more and more colleges are aware of a gluten-free diet and have food to accommodate this diet in the dining hall. I think by the time my son goes off to college, it should be pretty easy for him to navigate the dining halls.

Restaurants are also more aware than ever before about dietary restrictions. I wish every restaurant indicated which items on their menus were gluten-free, but I think the restaurants that offer gluten free menus, or indicate which items are gluten-free ingredients, are awesome.

I think it makes my life so much easier that celiac disease is no longer thought of as this “rare and unfortunate” disease. These days almost everyone knows someone on a gluten-free diet! I definitely used to feel like a freak when I asked for a burger without a bun. Now, I might get asked if I have a gluten issue or if I want a lettuce wrapped burger.

Other people on our Facebook page had great posts about how awareness has improved their gluten-free life. A few people said that increased labeling and increased products made it easier for family and friends to shop for them or feed them. Others said that awareness of celiac disease got them healthy again after years of baffling symptoms or feeling unwell. Mostly, people said that increased awareness has reduced the “blank stare” effect after explaining that they can’t eat gluten.

One person pointed out that a gluten-free diet was pretty good to Novak Djokovic this year. Three grand slam wins, three different trophies to kiss and while I don’t know his reason for a gluten-free diet, he sure has brought positive attention to a gluten-free diet!

Kendall Egan

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