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Diabetes and celiac disease – “Story of my life”
November 17, 2020 / Complications / Type 1

Diabetes and celiac disease – “Story of my life”

20 min read

Until November 14, 2000, as a little girl and then already with one foot in my teenage years, I spent my days running in the meadows, climbing trees, playing the popular gum-gum, hanging out with friends from school and the neighborhood.  Until that day, my biggest worries were homework and my mother’s call right in the middle of the game: “Ana, it’s time to come home!” – terrible!  The worst possible sentence uttered at the worst possible moment!

Suddenly that day comes too.  I lie in the hospital with the thought, “Hey people, I really don’t care!  I’m just a little exhausted.  What diabetes!?  And what is that anyway?!  “The worried, shocked and too sad faces of my parents, no matter how much they tried to hide the real situation at the time, let me know that this is a very serious situation and that a bad grade at school, an unwritten homework, a call-” Ana, it’s time for you come home! ”- are nothing compared to a sudden new situation.

 But, I very quickly mastered the so-called rituals of diabetes.  The wonderful staff of the pediatric department, my roommates from the room, already experienced, professional diabetics, were a real springboard from the initial state of confusion.  Later, getting to know and walking hand in hand with diabetes (sometimes successfully, sometimes a little less), I learned that November 14th is a really special date.  What pride!  Of all the dates, I chose the best! 

Shortly after I was released from the hospital, armed with the knowledge of what diabetes is, a call came to us again from that same institution.  Parents, still worried, coping and getting used to the new lifestyle, explain to me in the easiest possible way that I will have to repeat one test in the hospital and do additional ones.  “Okay!” – I think to myself – “I’m already familiar with the protocol.  I come, talk to the sweet-looking doctor and the cool nurse, draw the blood and that’s it!  I’m going home.”

After a positive blood test, they sent me for a biopsy, took a sample, sent me for analysis, and called us again for an interview.  All I have left were excerpts from the doctor’s sentences in my memory: “Ana, you have celiac disease.  You must not eat wheat, oats, rye, barley- be very careful- gluten can be hidden everywhere in food “, as well as the storm of my confusing thoughts and feelings that rippled like waves in my head:” Hey!  Do you hear yourself!?  I just caught the rhythm of my diet with diabetes and now you’re practically telling me I can’t eat any of it?!  So what am I going to eat then!?  Hey!  Somehow I have to give myself that insulin, and what food?!  I don’t want green salad !!… “

Coming home with another diagnosis of celiac disease which had been completely unknown to me until then, I am left with memories of the persistence, trial, and failure, toil, and effort of my parents to make gluten-free bread.  Until then, that fine grandmother’s homemade bread, grandmother’s walnut strudel, was a perfectly normal routine.  “Hey, Grandma, can you make me a puvatica (walnut strudel similar to cinnamon roll)?” And voila, that Lika delicacy found itself on our table in the blink of an eye.  To bake “ordinary” gluten-free bread, on the contrary, it took literally Olympic discipline.  Countless attempts to give the dough some shape before it even reaches the oven, and then the art of baking the bread evenly.  Meanwhile, by default on my plate, there were potatoes and rice.

It is important to note that all this travel took place 15 years ago when the common notion of diabetes and celiac disease was almost unknown.

I owe absolute credit for my effort, perseverance, and immense and sacrificial love to my parents.  Also,15 years ago it really wasn’t easy.  Starting with making “ordinary” gluten-free bread, let alone other culinary specialties.  Explaining to the person or parents of a person with celiac disease that you must not put petit biscuits in this super diabetic recipe because you must not eat them, and on the other hand to the person or parent of a person with diabetes, that you must not put three tons of sugar and three tons of oil.  There is no insulin to cover it, it was a real torture, sometimes likened to a mission impossible.

 

In the following years, there was more and more talk about celiac disease and the connection between celiac disease and other autoimmune diseases.  Again, not enough for people like me, with more diagnoses, but much better than at the beginning.  The age of the Internet has begun, and some information would shyly appear here and there, which was constantly repeated later: “People with diabetes are more prone to other autoimmune diseases such as celiac disease and vice versa.”

 

Through high school and at the beginning of college, I was especially looking forward to traveling to countries like Italy, Spain, and Germany.  There they then knew what celiac disease was and choosing gluten-free food was a real little paradise.  While others would come back with souvenirs, I would come home with gluten-free treats.  

Later, such products began to appear in our supermarkets and drugstores, and it was much easier.  There weren’t that many one-day “trips” to Austria anymore.  Anyway, I would rarely buy these products, precisely because of the large number of carbohydrates and fats.

Today, looking back 15 years, the amount of knowledge and availability of information about the disease itself, its connection with other autoimmune diseases, as well as the availability of a variety of gluten-free treats, is truly immeasurable.  Even today, I can jokingly comment with my parents that we had some groceries then, in the very beginning, we would be real master chefs.  

Today, I come across more and more people suffering from diabetes and celiac disease, and other autoimmune diseases.  The notion of celiac disease took off and became fashionable.  Justified or unjustified.  Today, more and more people are suffering from some form of sensitivity to some type of food.  It does not have to be celiac disease, it can be sensitive to, for example, lactose.  All this leads to the conclusion that today’s diet is at least poor and of poor quality.  Same as its availability.  We are all, if we do not have the conditions, doomed to shopping malls, various quick meals, and other marketing “wrappers” of so-called healthy food.

When asked today how I live with celiac disease and diabetes, I would say I try to stick to the basics.  I currently use the benefits of the empire of fruits and vegetables from the garden with side dishes of meat, millet, quinoa, and other permitted gluten-free foods.  I buy gluten-free products, but that is more the exception than the rule.

Living with celiac disease is definitely another “weight”.  It always requires a step further in daily preparation from planning a daily menu to planning a shorter or longer trip.  But, on the positive side, having celiac disease means banning all those bakery products, packaged “healthy” fast-paced meals that countless people struggle with on a daily basis.  We all have life’s ups and downs, but what matters is the positive always getting up again and breathing with full lungs. 

Ana Spoljaric Read more posts by this author
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