A Gluten-Free Teen’s Honest Perspective

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My daughter Emma and I both have Celiac Disease. Recently, Emma had to compose and present a persuasive speech for English class. She chose to write about why "being gluten-free should not be a trend". As her mom, I might be a tad biased, but I think Emma's message rings loud and clear, not just from a gluten-free teen's perspective, but those of us at any age with Celiac Disease or gluten intolerance.

Being Gluten-Free Should Not Be A Trend by Emma Stanley

I was diagnosed with Celiac Disease in 2012. So, what exactly is Celiac Disease? While you might not be familiar with the term, you may have heard people say they’re eating gluten-free to lose weight or be healthier. Many people think gluten-free is a trendy diet. But those statements are 100% wrong. How does this “trendy diet” labeling hurt those of us with Celiac Disease? Our bodies are put in danger, restaurants don’t take preparing gluten-free food seriously, and people think we’re just being high maintenance.

In actuality, gluten-free is a necessity, not a choice. Celiac Disease is a chronic autoimmune disorder that causes my body to think that anything containing gluten is poison and should be destroyed immediately. Gluten is found in wheat, barley, oats, and rye. Foods like donuts, pizza, candy, pasta, and licorice are just a few places gluten can be lurking. Who would think that shampoo and make-up contain wheat too? Unfortunately for those with Celiac Disease, gluten is pretty much everywhere. Before Celiac I never even thought about having to read an ingredient label. What was once a thirty-minute grocery trip has turned in to two hours of reading countless ingredient labels.

Celiac Disease is widely unknown even though it isn’t a rare disease. According to research, 1 in every 133 people have Celiac Disease. It seems like quite the common number, but many go up to ten years being undiagnosed or misdiagnosed.

The media marketing gluten-free as a trend puts those with Celiac Disease at a major risk. A recent study by the Columbia University Celiac Disease Center found that one third of restaurants offering gluten-free food actually contain gluten. Can you imagine how terrifying that is? To put it into perspective, what if you knew that every single time you went out to eat, you had a 33% chance of getting food poisoning.

There was a pizza place that opened up in my town that claimed to serve Gluten-Free pizza. Little did we know that they had served us a normal gluten pizza claiming that it was gluten-free. My mom, who also has Celiac Disease, ate several slices and had to be hospitalized. The internal damage done by just a few slices of pizza containing gluten would take months to heal.

The trend of eating gluten-free is everywhere. An article was recently published titled “If Mom Does 10 of These 20 Things, She’s Raising Her Kids Like a Kardashian”. Not only did this article include dressing your kids in designer clothing and making them Instagram stars, but feeding kids gluten-free was front and center on the list. Alright sure, I am afraid every time I go out to eat and I get sick over nearly all common foods, but hey I’m one step closer to becoming a Kardashian, right? The best part about this all is just how ridiculous it would sound if you replaced Celiac Disease and the need to be gluten-free with any other allergy. If an article came out saying that putting kids on a peanut-free diet makes them super trendy, there would be major backlash.

I completely understand that people want to try new diets that promote health and well-being. However, unless you have Celiac Disease, eating gluten-free isn’t healthy. We can’t eat lot of common natural grains, are vitamin deficient, and have to be careful with a lot of processed foods. When people are misinformed about a trend versus a medical condition, it negatively affects public perception of a serious disease.

In 2005 my mom was diagnosed with Celiac Disease and there was no cure. In 2012 I was diagnosed with Celiac disease and there was no cure. In present day I live with Celiac Disease every day and there is no cure. The term “gluten-free diet trend” should be eradicated from the news and social media as it overshadows and misinforms this serious medical condition.

I’m tired of being excluded and feeling isolated because many do not take my medical condition seriously. It hurts to be the only person at a party, dance, or class trip to sit with an empty plate. I’m not a trend, I’m Emma Stanley and I have Celiac Disease.

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Do you have a child, tween, or teenager that's gluten-free? What challenges have you faced? Share with the Hold the Gluten community in the comments below!

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Maureen

Maureen

Maureen Stanley was diagnosed with Celiac Disease in 2005. Way back before gluten-free was “mainstream“. Maureen created Hold The Gluten blog and podcast in 2008 as a way to connect members of the gluten-free community across the world.

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