Did you know that May is Celiac Awareness Month?
Maybe you’re wondering why we even need a month promoting Celiac Awareness, but as a wife to a husband with Celiac Disease and a friend to many others who live with it, I am very aware that more public education needs to be done to help people understand this disease. Many people still think that Celiac Disease is not that big of a deal, more of an excuse to be gluten-free rather than a disease. Some people even see gluten free as a fad; a way to ‘diet.’ It’s nothing of the sort. According to Celiac.org, “Celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder that can occur in genetically predisposed people where the ingestion of gluten leads to damage in the small intestine” (2016). This immediate damage can lead to other serious long term health issues. Currently, the only way to treat this disease is to eat a strictly gluten-free diet. With health issues like this on the line, this is no diet preference.
I really had no idea what “gluten free” or “Celiac” meant prior to 2008. That was the year that everything changed for my family. After years of trying to discover what was wrong with his health, my husband was diagnosed with Celiac disease. This was a enormous learning curve for us! Since he has a severe form of Celiac that also involves a skin reaction referred to as “DH,” we have to be careful of gluten that is hidden away in ingredients other than food. I can still remember crying in a doctor’s office at Mayo Clinic because I thought I had been SO careful to take care of my husband and she looked at me and said “What about your makeup? Is your lipstick gluten free?” What?!! Is my LIPSTICK gluten free? Who would have ever thought that makeup would have gluten in it! That opened my eyes to the fact that gluten can be hiding in soaps, shampoos, cosmetics, and even envelope glue. Crazy!
Since our family’s reorientation around my husband’s Celiac disease, I’ve become more aware of ways to help him and others live more at ease around me. Here are 3 tips to help you be a considerate friend or family member:
- If you are going out, think about the restaurant ahead of time and check out the menu to make sure they have gluten-free options. There are lots of apps available for your smartphone that can tell you if a restaurant is gluten-free friendly. My favorite is Find Me Gluten Free, which also has a very helpful website! (If you’re in Minnesota, my favorite local restaurant is Mad Jacks in Vandais Heights, MN. They’ve catered many Norwex events for me and the manager has a passion for safe food for people suffering with a gluten allergy or intolerance.)
- Consider a different style of cuisine. My go-to when friends came over was usually Italian or American food (think pasta, pizza, and grill food). Since our switch to gluten-free, I have modified things a bit. We make most things from scratch, and are very much focused on protein and vegetables. We’ve eliminated a lot of the really starchy foods that we grew up on (like the ever present Minnesota “hot dish” / casserole). It’s easy to make gluten free meals if you’re cooking from scratch with healthy ingredients.
- Shop for gluten-free cleaning and personal care products. Did you know that people with Celiac Disease also need to use gluten-free personal care products? I was surprised when I found this out. Thankfully, THE ENTIRE NORWEX CATALOG IS GLUTEN FREE*!! Shopping for those with Celiac is much easier when you don’t have to read EVERY label. My favorite things to give my friends with Celiac are the Timeless Organic Shea Butter, Shower Gel, and the Makeup Removal Cloths. *excluding the Mediterranean Moisture Face and Neck Gel