Living a gluten-free lifestyle

Students share their struggle with gluten

gluten graphicNEWFor many students on campus, a world of discomfort lurks around every gluten-containing corner. Junior Jadi Prante and senior Colin Sullivan are part of the 30 or so students at Concordia who must be vigilant about what they are eating. Prante is diagnosed with celiac disease, while Sullivan has non-celiac gluten sensitivity. Neither of them can have even the smallest amount of gluten in their diet.

Both Prante and Sullivan experience an intolerance that affects about 1 in 133 Americans, according to Celiac Central, a website funded by the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness, which provides resources, news and education related to gluten intolerance.

Some foods that contain gluten include bread, most cereal, pasta, cake, cookies and pretzels – essentially anything containing wheat or flour.

When these foods are ingested by people with gluten allergies or intolerances, they experience a wide variety of uncomfortable and painful symptoms. In fact, Celiac Central states there are more than 300 symptoms of celiac disease including irritability, fatigue, intestinal issues and headaches.

People who have non-celiac gluten sensitivity share many of the same symptoms, but they are more likely to experience non-digestive tract symptoms, such as headaches and fogginess.

“In my experience, my reaction to gluten gives me moderate to extreme discomfort – sometimes it’s debilitating to the point where I have to miss class,” Sullivan said.

It is important to recognize (particularly for those in the foodservice industry) that not all foods have to be specifically made with gluten to be dangerous to those with gluten allergies.

When gluten-free foods are prepared in close proximity with gluten-containing foods, there is a possibility for a small amount of contamination. This contamination is not as severe of a problem for those individuals with non-celiac gluten sensitivity but can be extremely dangerous to those with celiac disease.

“Even the slightest contamination puts me out of commission for days,” Prante said.

Luckily for Prante, Sullivan and other gluten-free individuals on campus, Dining Services provides daily gluten-free options. Anderson Commons has gluten-free pasta, bread, pizza and desserts available, while the Maize has gluten-free bread available in the sandwich line.

While these accommodations provide a variety of options for gluten-sensitive students, they do not come cheap.

“Despite their growing popularity, specialty gluten-free products are still very expensive compared to their counterparts,” said Cindy Hogenson, the residential dining manager and dietitian for Dining Services. Hogenson said the Maize is only able to provide gluten-free bread without passing the cost on to the customer, which explains why the Maize has fewer options available.

Despite being somewhat limited due to cost, both Prante and Sullivan are impressed and appreciative of what Dining Services offers for them.

“(Dining Services) puts in a wonderful effort to make as many things as safe as possible, and it’s nice to have the option of pasta or a sandwich instead of just filling,” Prante said.

While both of these students have expressed gratitude towards Dining Services for the options provided, if at all possible, Prante would love some gluten-free fish sticks, and Sullivan has been craving French fries for weeks.

Graphic by Morgan Schleif.

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