Celiac and Gluten Intolerance

Posted by jswanst on Monday, January 30th, 2012 in Food

By Sara Spowart

Gluten intolerance is a major problem in our culture and society. Gluten is found in practically any everyday product in the United States. It is pervasive in premade foods like teriyaki sauce, soy sauce, bread, pasta, pizza and more. Gluten intolerance is not well diagnosed and is connected to a host of other immune system issues like thyroid problems, lactose intolerance, poor immune system functioning, fatigue, anxiety, depression, poor concentration and mental clarity.

Gluten intolerance damages the villi in the intestines so that the small intestines flare up and proper nutrient absorption is not possible. Therefore, a variety of issues related to malnutrition occur and negatively impact the gluten intolerant person. As you can imagine, going out to eat is a tremendous challenge for a person with celiac disease because you have to make sure your meal is not only wheat free, but specifically gluten free. Gluten is the protein found in common items such as wheat, rye, and barley. Grocery stores like Whole Foods and other natural health food stores are very important for people with food allergies because they provide otherwise unheard of options.  These selections often cost a bit more, but they give a peace of mind and a comfort that you are able to shop at a store that understands your needs and can easily accommodate you.

It is also a major relief to find restaurants that cater to your gluten intolerance and understand how important it is to make sure your food is free of allergens. It is difficult for those without food allergies to understand the connection between milk and cheese or gluten and teriyaki sauce because it is not part of their lifestyle. The lack of understanding is very frustrating for people with food allergies.

Restaurants, grocery stores and doctors need to understand how chronic illness functions as an everyday lived experience. Greater levels of accommodation help the person with the illness feel more at peace with their lifestyle and condition, which is an incredible gift!

As someone who was never tested for gluten intolerance despite an array of health problems, I am outraged that this condition is not considered more often in current medical practice. In the past, gluten was seen as mainly connected to stomach and nutrition concerns. However, today there is a lot of evidence to suggest that gluten intolerance is highly undiagnosed and that many people with a variety of chronic issues, might benefit from eliminating gluten in their diet.

Food Allergies

Posted by jswanst on Tuesday, August 02nd, 2011 in Food

By Sara Spowart

If life with asthma is uncertain, life with food allergies is arguably worse. It doesn’t matter if you are allergic to one item like crab or ten food items which are everywhere like milk, lemon, potatoes, etc., it’s all the same situation. In all of these circumstances it’s necessary to monitor and watch every single thing that goes in your mouth, or even that you might be near and accidentally breath in. For example, those with severe peanut allergies often cannot be in airplanes where the air is re-circulated and where they could have bad allergic reactions. Or people with severe allergies to lemon for example, can’t be near places where lemons might be squeezed and then inhaled.

Food allergies are a daily reminder that on any day you could have an allergic reaction and go into anaphylactic shock because you accidentally ingest something you are not supposed to, or develop severe hives unexpectedly from something you ate and you have no idea what specific food caused it. The immune system is continually changing, which means you can always develop new food allergies. It feels like every time you eat something new, there is a possibility of being allergic to it. This knowledge and uncertainty follow you throughout your day making everything a little bit more stressful and difficult. And at the very least, it definitely changes your perspective on food!

There is a strong link between asthma and food allergies.  If you have either condition, talk to your health professional about allergy testing to see how you might be able to protect yourself from dangerous experiences or encounters.

Living with Asthma

Posted by jswanst on Tuesday, August 02nd, 2011 in Life

By Sara Spowart

Life with asthma is not easy. The fear associated with not being able to breathe is indescribable.  The feelings of weakness and frailty are a constant challenge.  Those feelings are even more challenging when your asthma keeps you from doing the things you want to do or living the life you expect to live.  Many times I have had my asthma cause me to feel isolated and alone because I wasn’t able to go out with friends and enjoy life because of my wheezing and coughing.

Although not life threatening, it is dealing with the reactions from others about my asthma that is the hardest. Being told you got sick because you didn’t manage your asthma well enough, or your life well enough…that you are sick again because of something you did or didn’t do… and knowing that family and friends are talking about it and your reoccurring condition, is definitely the worst part.

It’s true that there are many medications available for controlling asthma and allergies- however, they are expensive, can be problematic with insurance companies and are not 100% effective. There is no cure for asthma and medications can only manage it. The reality is that even with medications, for most of us it isn’t completely possible to avoid triggers and allergic reactions. For example, I’m allergic to mold and I have had a tough time finding apartments in my town that do not have some mold somewhere.  (I live in an old section of town.)  Mold, like most allergens, is not completely possible to avoid unless you live in a bubble.  Sometimes even visiting friends in their homes can cause a challenge.

The reality for any person living with asthma that has had an asthma attack, is that even if you haven’t had one in a long time, you never forget the experience of being unable to breath. You never forget certain asthma experiences… like how it felt taking in a breath but no air would go in… and the quiet, calm panic that filled you because there was nothing to do except hope you get to the hospital faster.

It’s impossible to predict your next asthmatic episode, and blaming the person with asthma when it happens, just makes it so much worse. It’s the never knowing which creates continual uncertainty, and makes you appreciate everyday just a little bit more.

Coming soon!

Posted by jswanst on Friday, June 24th, 2011 in Welcome

Welcome to the Students With Asthma blog! Check back soon for new blog posts. Thanks for stopping by!