May 23, 2012 by Gina
On Saturday, Finn, Getty and I went for a walk. We walk a lot, but this walk was a bit different. We walked in the 11th Annual Making Tracks for Celiacs to raise money and awareness of celiac disease. I’ve wanted to do this walk for several years, but seem to always be out-of-town or working. I decided to do it this year at the last-minute and also invited a friend and her daughter who was diagnosed with celiac disease about one month ago. I would have loved to do the 5K race that starts a few minutes before the walk but since I had the kids and haven’t been running, I opted for the walk. Why did we do this walk? I was diagnosed with celiac disease in January 2002 when I was 28 years old. Despite years of doctor visits, starting when I was probably about one, it took a long time for my diagnosis.
So what is celiac disease? According to the Celiac Sprue Association:
Celiac disease (pronounced: SEE-lee-ack disease), also known as celiac sprue or gluten-sensitive enteropathy, is a genetically linked autoimmune disorder that can affect both children and adults. In people with CD, eating certain types of grain-based products set off an immune response that causes damage to the small intestine. This, in turn, interferes with the small intestine’s ability to absorb nutrients found in food, leading to malnutrition and a variety of other complications. The offending amino acid sequences are collectively called “gluten” and are found in wheat, barley and rye.
So, basically, myself and others with celiac can’t eat anything with flour, wheat, barley or rye in it. The disease is very common, affecting 1 in 133 people and is common in people of western and northern European descent. You can’t “catch” celiac disease – it is genetic and you are born with specific genes linked to the disease. The disease can often lay dormant or you may not show symptoms for years. But the disease still does damage and can cause many problems.
At the time I was diagnosed, I was constantly fatigued, losing my hair, I had an odd color to my skin and I had constant diarrhea and excessive gas. Basically, I was a mess and I was moving back to the U.S. after five years of living overseas. I can’t tell you the relief I felt when Dr. McCreary in Alexandria, Minnesota told me that he knew why I was so sick all the time! After a week of adhering to a gluten-free diet I felt so much better and have never looked back.
At this time, celiac disease is incurable and the only treatment is adherence to a gluten-free diet. But research and the dedication of many in the medical field could change that in the future. That’s why I wanted to do the Making Tracks Walk on Saturday and help to raise money and awareness. Of course, I was also really excited about the food expo and afterward! It’s been ten years since I’ve had a fried cheese curd and it was amazing! I may have to make them at home, though I rarely eat fried food. I was so full after the expo, having devoured gluten-free pancakes, rice and beans, a hotdog, chicken curry, root beer, chicken wild rice soup and countless brownies, cookies, muffins and other stuff. It was such a pleasure to go to ANY booth and know the food was gluten-free. I didn’t have to ask any questions or explain myself and I learned about many restaurants and products that I didn’t know about until Saturday that have gluten-free food.
I’m so glad I spent my Saturday morning walking for this cause and I know I’ll do it again next year. Won’t you join me?