This weekend I’ll be attending the Food Allergy Blogger’s Conference in Las Vegas, so I thought it was about time that I wrote about a topic I spend a good portion of my day thinking about: the intersection of celiac disease and food allergies.
Is one harder to manage? More severe? Easier to diagnose? It seems like the celiac and food allergy communities are caught in a constant back-and-forth over who’s got it worse.
First, let me say that having celiac disease is some serious business. No one knows that better than me. On average it takes 6-10 years for a person with celiac disease to be diagnosed. I was lucky to get a diagnosis soon after I started recognizing symptoms, but I still suffer health consequences on a regular basis even seven years later.
But, if I had to choose – I’d take celiac disease over a life-threatening food allergy any day.
Yep, I said it. While celiac disease can lead to serious health implications like infertility, certain forms of cancer, etc.
Food allergies can kill you. Like, today. Right now. At your next meal.
My mom and little sister both have life-threatening peanut allergies (my mom is also allergic to peas). If I could trade in their allergies for celiac disease, I would do it in a heartbeat.
Short anecdote: Growing up, I knew that no peanut dare cross the threshold of our front door. I didn’t have a peanut myself until I was about 8-years-old, when I had a peanut butter and jelly sandwich at a friend’s house. I don’t know if I was sick, or why what happened next happened, but when I got home I threw up that sandwich all over our living room floor. My mom had me rinse out my mouth and hop in the car to go to the doctor, all without cleaning up the mess so she didn’t have a reaction herself.
So, back to my mom and sister – I would choose for them to have celiac disease over a food allergy because of what it would mean for their day-to-day: no more trips to the ER, no more expensive epinephrine prescriptions, no more fear while entering the lunchroom. No chance that a bite of a cookie could send them into anaphylaxis and kill them.
Because, let’s be real – if I had a bite of a cookie that had gluten in it, I’m not going to die. Not a chance, not today. And I’m grateful that I don’t have to bear that burden.
There is still much more work to be done to bring awareness to celiac disease and food allergies – they are both widely misunderstood, under-diagnosed, and under-funded. More than anything, I’d like to see both communities focus on their similarities over their differences. We both got the short end of the stick when it comes to food, so we’ll need to work together to expand our options and move towards cures.
Thoughts? If you had to choose, which would you rather have: celiac disease, or a food allergy?