Thursday, April 18, 2013

Get the word out!

I would like to share two pieces of photographic evidence (well, visual evidence) to illustrate the importance of letting people know you are gluten-free.

1. No Glutton for Gluten

A few weeks ago, I found this cute little article in my mailbox at school about shopping for gluten-free products in Phoenix (click on the image to go to the web edition). There was no note, but I was fairly certain it must have come from one of my celiac friends on campus. I was right--it came from my friend, Brenda, who was diagnosed with celiac disease in the last year or so.

Now, I think most of us assume people with celiac disease look out for others with the same disease--swapping recipes, recommending restaurants and products, etc. Thus, it probably doesn't surprise you that Brenda, who I have shared many gluten-free tidbits with over the past year, would pass on a helpful resource to me. The story of how she got it, however, illustrates my point (Get the word out!) quite well.

Brenda received the article from another teacher in her department who has absolutely no reason to think about gluten-free products. She simply came across the article one day, remembered that Brenda is on a strict gluten-free diet, pulled it out, and passed it on. Upon reading the article, Brenda immediately made a resolution to check out one of the gluten-free bakeries mentioned, but she never would have known the article (or the bakery) existed if she hadn't been open about her disease and her diet restrictions. 

2. A Pretty Platter of Gluten-Free Cookies

You know those awkward moments when someone gives you a gluten-containing baked good as a gift, and then they just kind of stare at you and wait for you to eat it? Well, I did not experience that on my birthday this year. Instead, I walked into my classroom, and I was greeted by this perfect platter of pretty little cookies--all of them gluten-free.

My instructional aide, Kim, who had never even heard of celiac disease until a few months ago, consulted with Brenda about the best-tasting gluten-free cookies, spent a small fortune purchasing them (undoubtedly), plated them up, and wrapped them in cellophane for the most thoughtful birthday gift I could have asked for from any coworker. She even brought doughnuts for my students so I wouldn't have to share!

Could this have happened if I hadn't taken the time to explain--in detail--what celiac disease is, how it restricts my diet, and why it I should never, ever have gluten? No, it couldn't have. If I hadn't explained celiac disease to Kim, I probably would have been greeted by a pan full of gluten-containing birthday cake, an awkward situation, and a guilty conscience.

The Takeaway (to steal a phrase from the delightful style blog, Work Your Wardrobe):

People want to help us, but they can only do that if we speak up and educate them.

Not sure how to start the conversation? Pop over to my informational page, "Celiac Disease," for some well-researched answers to a few common questions, including: What is celiac disease? What are its symptoms? and What happens if you eat gluten?

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