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Celiac creates a challenge for Rose students

FRI. | 11-19-21 | FEATURES

     Imagine attending a party and eagerly lining up to eat cake when you are told that you are not allowed to eat any. This has been a reality for Rose sophomore Dayla Brown and freshman Christopher Bazelow, who both have celiac disease.

     “Gluten is pretty much wheat, and anything that has wheat in it I can't eat,” Brown said. 

     According to the Celiac Disease Foundation, celiac disease is a serious autoimmune disease that occurs in genetically predisposed people. The ingestion of gluten leads to damage in the small intestine. It is estimated to affect 1 in 100 people worldwide, but it is not the only gluten-related medical issue there is. 

     “I’m on the specific carbohydrate diet (SCD), so I eat healthier than 95% of America,” sophomore Sydney Evans said.

     Dr. Alessio Fasano, a world-renowned pediatric gastroenterologist, speculates that gluten sensitivity affects far more people than celiac disease. According to Very Well Health, he estimates that about 6% to 7% of the U.S. population may be gluten-sensitive, meaning some 20 million people in the United States alone could have the condition. Celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder, whereas gluten intolerance is a sensitivity. 

     “It’s different symptoms for different people,” Brown said.

If celiac disease is properly managed, most people can have a

gluten student

Photo by Katharine Gauland

normal life expectancy. However, if celiac disease is not treated with a diet that is completely free of gluten, then the damage that is caused to the small intestine will continue and it could potentially be life threatening.

     “It's not nearly as hard as a lot of people think. You get used to it and don't really think about it,” Bazelow said.

     For some people, managing celiac is as simple as keeping a gluten-free diet. A gluten-free diet is an eating plan that excludes any and all foods containing gluten.

     “The gluten-free replacement options these days are much better than they used to be,” Brown said. “I’ve been told that some gluten-free foods are better than regular foods.”

     Although it may seem simple, that doesn't mean it's easy. It changes the way you eat, the choices you make, and can cause discomfort and pain. Celiac disease is not something to take lightly.

     “I wouldn’t say that living gluten-free is hard. [But] I have done it most of my life so I guess it’s just my normal,” Evans said.  “There are some things I miss though such as gold fish and ice cream sandwiches,” Brown added.

     Two and a half million Americans have celiac disease, but are undiagnosed and are at risk for long-term health complications.

     “The worst part about being gluten-free is that I can't eat pizza with my friends,” Bazelow said. “The best part is that it's a healthier diet than if I wasn't [gluten-free].”

     An additional hardship that comes with not being able to eat gluten is the cost. Brown and Bazelow both stated how they felt that the cost of gluten-free items is higher than the cost of items that contain gluten. 

     “I definitely think that being gluten-free is more expensive,” Bazelow said.

     According to a 2019 US basket market survey, gluten-free food products cost 83 percent more than non-gluten-free foods.

     Gluten is a silent disease and the replacement of it is vital to over 20 million people in the United States. Helping those with gluten allergies/intolerance is as simple as being more aware. 

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