Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Gluten is Poison–A Celiac’s Speech

If you follow me on Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter…(got enough social media there Marlow?!) then you know that yesterday was a big day for me.

I had a group skit in my Spanish class. Essentially a 10 minute skit – completely in Spanish – and using vocabulary from our assigned chapter. I signed up to be in the first group because with things like skits and presentations, I’m a get it over with quickly kind of gal.

The skit went great! We did a take on The Dating Game, and I think our professor really liked it. One of my group-mates was hilarious, and everyone did really well with their lines. As painful as group work can be, this wasn’t bad at all! Plus it was nice to chat with some of my classmates and once again feel as old as Methuselah. I’m convinced that everyone in that class is 19 just to annoy me and say things like, “You’re a decade older than me.” (Really?)

But the really big event of my day was in my Public Speaking class. I had a 4 minute introductory speech and I decided to tell my class about Celiac Disease and that while it may seem like a curse, that in fact it has actually benefited my life. You’re not surprised I chose gluten as my speech topic are you?!

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I’m all about the Benjamin's gluten free, baby.

Since I think we could all use a reminder of the positive sides of a gluten free life-style (because let’s be honest, when you’re staring down a kid eating a cinnamon pretzel you start to wonder why you’re being punished) I thought I would share my speech with you guys!

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Imagine this scenario: I’m in a diner with a couple of my friends. One friend orders a sandwich, the other a hamburger. But as I scan the menu, I quickly realize there is nothing I can eat. The bread in the sandwich contains poison, as does the breading on the fried chicken, the pasta in the spaghetti, and even the dressings on the salad could have poison. I ask the waitress if she knows the ingredients in any of the salad dressings; do they contain poison? She doesn’t seem to understand, so I don’t want to take the risk. I order a glass of water and eat my food bar from my purse.

Does it seem like a joke that others can order food from the menu without a problem but for me every item contained poison? I’m sure it seems like a joke. but for me, it’s not a joke. It’s my everyday life. I have a disease. Don’t worry it’s not contagious, although it is hereditary. I have Celiac Disease.

Celiac Disease is an auto-immune disease in which my body, more specifically my digestive system, treats a protein found in wheat, barley and rye called gluten as a poison. When I ingest gluten, my body attacks itself and the tiny microphilli that help digest food and nutrients die off. I become very sick. Each time it varies, from migraines and fatigue to bathroom fireworks and bloats. And there are longterm side effects such as decalcification of teeth, infertility, and possible death from malnutrition.

While Celiac Disease may seem like a curse, for me it has been a blessing my teaching me patience and how to eat in order to feel healthy.

First, Celiac Disease has taught me to be more patient with others. When I go out to eat or attend a cook-out or party where there is food, I always have to ask the person in charge of the food “What can I eat?” Most of the time I have to go into a brief explanation of what gluten is. If the person isn’t familiar with gluten, then I have to go further into detail. In the past I would get frustrated by their lack of understanding. But with time, I have learned to be patient. Not everyone knows about gluten or even Celiac Disease, and being impatient doesn’t help me get food any faster.

And I’ve also learned patience with myself and my own hunger. When I’m on the road or in need of food quickly, I often get what I call “hangry”. It’s where you’re so hungry, that you are angry: you’re hangry. But with Celiac Disease, there are often situations where I can’t eat anything offered, like at the diner. So I’ve learned to be patient and always pack a food bar!

Second, Celiac Disease has taught me to eat healthier with the foods I can eat.

Since there aren’t really convenience foods without gluten, such as fast food burgers and fried chicken tenders, I have learned to eat healthier. In the past, given the choice between carrot sticks and chicken nuggets, I would have always chosen the chicken. But now the chicken isn’t an option, so I would go for the carrots. Fresh fruits and vegetables are naturally gluten free, and they leave me feeling energized and healthy; chicken nuggets would leave me feeling overly full and sleepy. Being in touch with how foods containing gluten can make me feel bad, has helped me realize that healthy, whole foods make me feel good.

In conclusion, while being diagnosed with Celiac Disease was really hard at first, with time I learned to be more patient in regards to my food. I am able to practice patience when explaining to others what I can and can’t eat and I am able to practice patience with myself if I’m not able to eat right away. I have also learned how to eat healthier foods that are naturally gluten free and that in turn those foods make me feel healthier too.

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Short, sweet and to the point! Smile

Phew, speaking in EXACTLY four minutes was tough! And as comfortable as I am speaking in front of crowds, I did get a little nervous 20 seconds in to my speech. The neat thing was that after class several students came up to me and said they were so glad they finally “knew” what gluten was. That felt really good!

Happy Fourth of July friends!!


Anonymous said...

My eyes got a little floaty just reading this. Right on!

Donna said...

You are an inspiration to celiacs - I mean it. It is poison and it's that simple. Don't eat poison and get on with it.

Anonymous said...

Wow... I'm teary eyed reading your speech. You are very brave to come out and talk about it so freely in front of your peers. Thanks for sharing your triumphs and struggles with us:) It's so nice to know that there are others in the same boat as me!