For this Catalyst Conference, I decided to do something about celiac disease, a disease that’s not widely recognized/known because it’s not life threatening,
One of my close friends, Ava Miralles, was diagnosed with celiac disease about half a year ago, and although I didn’t really think much of it at first, I soon realized that her food options were very limited, and this put her in many awkward social situations. It would always be hard for her to eat during school-provided dinners/lunches, and when we hung out with our friends, she didn’t want to limit our food options so she stayed silent while we decided on what to eat. A lot of the times, we ended up eating at restaurants with no gluten-free options, and she would just be sitting there while we ate
Both of us are also dancers on our school’s dance team, and she would get an upset stomach every time that she even had a hint of gluten in her food. This disease caused her to become bloated and get diarrhea very easily, which was very hard for her, especially since we had to perform every weekend.
“I think the main struggle is when someone offers me food, and I have to not accept it, like I feel rude, and so it’s caused kind of like a barrier between me and other people in social situations, so I think that the social issues are the hardest part.” – Ava
All of these factors influenced me to do my catalyst conference on this topic.
What is Celiac Disease?
Celiac Disease is an autoimmune disorder where the digestion of gluten, a protein found in wheats, causes damages to the small intestine. If a person has that has celiac eats something with gluten in it, it triggers an immune response that ends up attacking the small intestine. Specifically, it attacks the villi that line the small intestine. The villi help absorb nutrients and carry them away in the bloodstream, and so if a person has damaged villi, nutrients can’t properly be absorbed.
The precise cause of celiac isn’t known yet, but celiac disease can be triggered (active for the first time) by a series of factors: pregnancy, childbirth, after-surgery, viral infection, or severe stress. A viral infection can cause the immune system to overreact, and a prolonged overreaction can end up triggering celiac. Having certain genes also increases your risk of getting celiac disease. These genes are the HLA-DQ2 and HLA-DQ8 genes. If a person finds out that she/he is diagnosed with celiac, there is a higher chance that their family members will have it too.
There are many different symptoms that that can indicate celiac disease. Some of them include:
I decided to create a survey about celiac disease and sent it out to my high school (first 150 responses). I was interested in finding out how many people actually knew about celiac disease and if they thought it was important. To be honest, I didn’t know of or hear about celiac disease until my friend was diagnosed with it.
After conducting my survey, I created a gluten-free menu for my friend Ava, and I included appetizers, entrees, and desserts. I allowed her to pick one from each category, and I am currently gathering ingredients to make the food for her. I encourage everyone to make someones day a little brighter, as a small deed like making food for a celiac patient e can actually mean a lot to them.
Overall, this project allowed me to connect with one of my friends in a deeper way, and I am currently working with some teachers to see if I can present one of my celiac presentations to a class at my school.