Have you heard the one about the child with a tummy ache? “He wasn’t really sick, he was just nervous.” Or the one about the freshly-baked cookie: “one won’t hurt you!” Having celiac disease or other gastrointestinal disorders often means looking fine while feeling sick. Unlike when you have the flu or hives, where you “look as bad as you feel,” when you have celiac disease and have been “glutened,” you may look outwardly fine while feeling terrible inside. For my family members with celiac disease, the only outward sign of glutening is the need to sleep – for many hours at a time. Their symptoms may not be your symptoms or your neighbor’s symptoms. One of the reasons celiac disease often goes undiagnosed is the inconsistent presentation of the disease.
Learning to live with celiac disease means learning to recognize when your body says things aren’t well. You know when things aren’t right, and you know (or will learn) which things make you feel okay. Learning to live with a family member’s celiac disease is about learning to respect how they say they feel. When my son says he is too sick to stay at school, I have to respect his words. He needs to know that I understand that the inside and the outside don’t always look the same.
Having celiac disease also means learning to stand up for yourself, no matter how awkward it may make you or your host feel. Better to pass on the pie than risk days of sickness. People without celiac disease or gluten-sensitivity in their life don’t understand why just one cracker matters. When they offer to share food with you, they aren’t trying to make you sick; they are trying to include you. So saying “I’m sorry I can’t have a piece of cake, but thank you for inviting me” sounds better than “Are you trying to make me sick with that cake?”
Eggy Rice is my family’s go-to comfort food. It is a good source of clean protein, it works alone and with other foods, and it is quick to make. We often serve it as the base for stir-fry dishes, as here with Gingery Carrots and Kale with Shiitaki Mushrooms. If rice doesn’t bring you comfort, substitute millet or quinoa instead.