When I was 20 years old and in my second year of university, I began experiencing serious stomach issues. It seemed like no matter what I ate, I felt sick afterwards. I went to my school’s health clinic and they sent me to get bloodwork done. The only thing they found in my bloodwork was that I had low iron levels.
I continued to experience stomach issues and ended up having to drop one of my university courses because I couldn’t handle a full workload while sick. I missed a lot of classes that semester and my grades suffered. I ended up at the hospital because I was vomiting every day and they told me it was probably just a virus.
My stomach issues continued on and off for months. I ended up back at the hospital and the attending doctor suggested I see my family doctor to get tested for celiac disease. My family doctor finally tested me and found that my bloodwork was positive for celiac disease. I saw a specialist to get a scope done and he confirmed my diagnosis. It took almost a full year from my first doctor visit to get my official diagnosis.
I felt relief that I finally knew what was wrong with me and that I could treat it. I felt fear because I knew that I would have to cut gluten from my diet completely. I’m 25 years old now and my journey of eating gluten-free has had ups and downs. I feel so much healthier now and my stomach problems have resolved.
The hardest part of following a strict gluten-free diet has been the effect it has had on my social life. My friends and family can go to any restaurant they want and order food with no fear. But, I have to plan ahead and make sure I feel safe eating at restaurants and my options are limited. There is a bit of anxiety with every restaurant visit and at events that involve food. It can be uncomfortable to say “no” to someone when they offer me food or ask me to eat at a restaurant with them. But as celiacs, we have to put our health first.
I’ve been extremely lucky to have a family who cares about my health and goes out of their way to make sure I’m safe when eating with them. My mom cooks great gluten-free meals whenever I visit her. My friends and partner are understanding of my celiac disease and always try to include my needs when we hang out.
I created an Instagram account called @glutenfreehalifax to connect with other gluten-free people in my community (Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada) and with people around the world. I’m grateful to have my online community.
Celiac disease is challenging but having my partner, friends, family and online community makes it way easier.