Gluten free products are becoming increasingly available as more people adopt gluten-free diets. People adopt a gluten free diet for a variety of reasons. Celiac disease, gluten allergy, or personal choice are common reasons.
Associate professor of nursing, Robin Adams-Weber said there is a difference between celiac disease and a gluten allergy.
“Celiac disease is a mal-absorption syndrome that has to do with the destruction of the celiac in the intestines. They fail to function properly and don’t absorb nutrition as well.
“It can be genetic or the result of a gluten allergy. Celiac disease can cause signs of malnutrition such as weight loss, lack of energy, shortness of breath, and anemia which is an iron deficiency,” said Adams-Weber. “Having a gluten allergy causes inflammation in the intestine which in turn causes a person to become sick.”
According to the National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse (NDDIC), celiac disease is a common genetic disorder. More than 2 million people in the United States have the disease, or about 1 in 133 people.
Among people who have a first-degree relative—a parent, sibling, or child—diagnosed with celiac disease, as many as 1 in 22 people may have the disease.
Micah Carleton, a sophomore business administration major said, “My grandmother had it and since it’s a genetic thing, they found out I had it too. I’ve had celiac as well as other allergies like dairy, carrots, and peanuts. I guess you could say I’ve had it for my whole life. It’s hard having celiac because I know what a hot Panera bagel tastes like. I miss those tastes, but you just learn to cope.”
Education about what celiac disease and gluten allergies are important to understand how people with these diet restrictions live and the alternative dietary options available to them.
“It’s [celiac disease] really not that bad. People often feel bad for me when I am explaining to them that I have celiac. They’re like ‘well you probably get this a lot’ and they feel like they can’t ask questions or they shouldn’t ask questions,” Carleton said. “I would just like to say that, yeah, go ahead, ask questions. It’s not that big of a deal. It’s just letting people know a little bit more about how I live and a little bit more about me.”
Campus dining service provider, AVI Food Systems, offers accommodations to students who have dietary restrictions.
Stephan Baity, the resident director of AVI Food Systems said, “All of our staff go through an allergen training program to learn how best to accommodate and prepare for students with these gluten sensitivities. The second thing is that we actually partner with a couple of local companies i.e. the Raisin Rack and Carolyn’s Cakes in Massillon. I take students there and we actually go shopping. They tell me what’s good so we know what to get. Otherwise I’d just buy whatever was on sale.”
Students with gluten sensitivities or other dietary restrictions have access to accommodations provided by AVI.
Baity said, “Each station can be set up to accommodate students who have a gluten sensitivity. For example, we have gluten free pizza crust. We have pasta (rice noodles), and we also have pasta that is made with brown rice. We also have set aside a space in the refrigerator that the students have free access to that includes a variety of stuff.”
Carleton uses the accommodations AVI provides to eat while on campus.
“The cafeteria makes me little mini gluten free pizzas pretty much on a regular basis. I also use the soy milk that the cafeteria has in their refrigerator in the back to use on my cereal,” Carleton said.
Sophomore education major Amber Benson also uses the accommodations available to students on campus.
“I developed a gluten allergy at the beginning of last year. The people in the cafeteria are so wonderful. They are willing to make me whatever they can to accommodate me. Steve showed me all the things they have available to me so I can use it and take advantage of those options whenever I want to,” Benson said.
For students who have dietary restrictions, eating away from home can be a challenge. Baity and AVI work hard to accommodate students’ dietary restrictions. If you have any questions about accommodations available talk with AVI staff members to learn more.
Ashley Futty is a contributing writer to The Aviso AVW.