Celiac disease, also written as coeliac which is derived from the Greek word for abdominal, is an autoimmune disorder of the small intestine that is complicated by the ingestion of the gluten protein. When celiac disease patients consume food products containing gluten, their bodies’ immune system reacts by destroying the villi, protrusions on the wall of the small intestine that absorb nutrients from food. Celiac disease is prevalent in all parts of the world. In the United States, about two million people are affected with the disorder. People who have other genetic disorders, such as Down syndrome and Turner syndrome, have a greater risk of contracting the condition. The disease is especially dangerous when contracted in youth, since the malnourishment attached to the disease can stunt growth and development.
Celiac disease has a variety of symptoms; some may experience certain symptoms that others may not. A few common symptoms are bloating, vomiting, diarrhea, weight loss, and abdominal pain. Symptoms can also vary based on the age of the patient. Children commonly will also have irritability, dental damage, along with stunted growth due to the lack of absorption of food nutrients in the small intestine. Adults typically will also show symptoms of anemia, fatigue, bone and joint pain, depression, seizures, and other effects due to malnutrition. The only known medical treatment for celiac disease is the avoidance of gluten containing food products. A person with the disorder who does not follow these dietary guidelines will continue to suffer from the symptoms of the disease.
Despite the widespread prevalence of celiac disease, it has very serious social implications on the people it infects and their social surroundings. People with the disease constantly have to watch their diet which is often connected to social situations, specifically dating circumstances. A fancy dinner date may seem like a fun idea to anyone, but to someone with celiac disease it may cause a lot of anxiety about explaining their disease and their careful diet. It may seem simple to just order a menu item that is gluten-free, but someone with the disorder must eat food that has been prepared in a gluten-free environment. Cross-contamination of gluten-free food products can happen when the food comes in conjunction with pans, cutting boards, plates, or other food utensils that have come in contact with the gluten protein. Many people often misunderstake celiac disease for a wheat allergy, which does not necessarily cause damage to the small intestine. This confusion can lessen people’s understanding of the severity of the disease.
Although living with celiac disease can cause some social anxieties, dating is definitely possible, and dining while dating can still be an enjoyable experience. For a first date, if the anxiety about a dinner date is too much to handle, outside activities such as a trip to the zoo or the park, hiking, geo-caching, or any other engaging activity that does not involve eating can be substituted for a meal date. When the weather does not permit for outdoor activities, visiting local museums, the movie theater, or even just walking around the mall can still make for an exciting first date. When dining on a date, a person with celiac disease must make the waiter fully aware of their dietary needs and the precautions that need to be taken to avoid cross-contamination of the food. Often, this process can be made easier by doing research ahead of time; call potential dining places, and ask about their gluten-free options as well as their workspace in which the food is prepared.
Both dating and celiac disease can be stressful enough by themselves, but with sufficient knowledge of the disease, one can learn to avoid any diet anxieties during a date. Sharing the knowledge of this common disorder can help two people come together and learn more about one another in a way they never could have imagined.
The following is a collection of resources for those who suffer from celiac disease, those who have a friend or family member with the disorder, or for those who want to be more aware about this prevalent and complicated disease. Some resources discuss the disorder itself, and others suggest ways of coping with the disease, such as gluten-free cooking recipes and guides for dining out.
Define, Explore, and Treat Celiac Disease
Ohio State University Medical Center’s Guide to Celiac Disease – All the basic information about celiac disease.
University of Maryland Center for Celiac Research FAQ – Answers to commonly asked questions about celiac disease.
Gluten-Free Drinks – A site with recipes for gluten-free alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages.
Gluten-Free Food List – Categorized list of brand name food products in the US that are gluten-free.
Gluten Intolerance Group of North America – The GIG website has information on upcoming events and programs involving celiac disease awareness, a resources page, and a support groups page, along with other information about the disorder.
World Gastroenterology Organization Practice Guidelines for Celiac Disease – The WGO’s definition of celiac disease along with predispositions for the disease, symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment.
GF Overflow – A search engine that allows individuals to search for different types of food that come in gluten-free varieties.
Gluten-Free Diet – A site with gluten-free recipes and gluten-free diet tips.
Celiac Disease Foundation – Foundation website dedicated to raising awareness about celiac disease.
Gluten-Free Diet for People Newly Diagnosed with Celiac Disease – Ten steps to changing a previous diet to a gluten-free diet for those recently diagnosed with celiac disorder.
Celiac Disease and Safe Grains – A study of which grains are suitable for a person with celiac disease and which are not safe to consume.
The Gluten-Free Chef – Substitutes for flour in baking recipes for gluten-free baked goods.
Celiac Disease Resources – A list of resources about celiac disease composed by the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness.
Living With Celiac Disease
Emotional Adjustment for Parents – A guide for parents about adjusting to their child’s recent diagnosis of celiac disease compiled by the Children’s Hospital of Boston.
Gluten-Free Living – A definition of gluten, along with suggestions of how to live without this protein in one’s diet.
The University of Chicago Celiac Disease Center – Information on the disease and how to continue living a normal life after diagnosis.
Treatment of Celiac Disease by the Celiac Sprue Association – The Celiac Sprue Association’s guide to living a gluten-free life.
Date Ideas & Tips
Restaurant Dining Tips for Staying Gluten-Free – Seven tips for how to successfully dine out and eat a gluten-free meal.
Traveling with Celiac Disease – The National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse’s tips for traveling while maintaining a gluten-free diet.
Ultimate Gluten-Free – A list of gluten-free restaurants and stores in the United States.
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