Celiac Disease: The Gluten Free Marathon

I remember exactly where I heard about the the Boston Marathon bombings last year. I was cruising from school in my little Honda Fit, sister in the back and music blaring. Until Pink's new single was interrupted by a report of explosions.

I'm sad to say that it didn't surprise me. We live in a world of violence and hatred (now the news really is black, white and red all over) and I'm not proud to admit that I've become somewhat desensitized to violence. At the same time, though, my heart broke. I was a runner - am a runner - and the idea that hundreds of people, guilty only of wanting to pummel pavement with their sneakers or support a beloved, could be executed without a second thought.

Sign posted near bombing site (thanks NPR)

So, when the Boston Marathon began again this morning - a year since the terrorist attack tore the finish line - I asked for safety for the present runners and peace for the past. And when an American won the Boston Marathon for the first time in three decades wearing the names of last year's victims? I can't think of a better way to prove that Boston really did win against the bombers

How does this relate to celiac disease or living gluten free? Because, although I would never equalize the suffering of the bomb victims with the difficulties of being diagnosed, dealing with celiac disease presents its challenges. Our bodies, whether or not we want to admit it, are damaged. I have only recently discovered how damaged mine truly is.

I'm still 10 pounds underweight. I have a strained IT band and tight hip flexors because of my low weight and malnutrition. I'm still boxing with digestion and acid reflux, and dairy and I still sit on opposite sides of the table. The real eye-opener (no pun intended) was my eye appointment, when I learned of white blood cells littering the tops of my corneas: a sign of past inflammation, likely from my hospitalization.

Throw back to hospital selfies!

The truth is, celiac disease causes more than an upset stomach. It can throw everything from bone density to nutritional absorption to energy levels into a tailspin. Celiac can have a serious impact on the human body, untreated or treated, and should be given an appropriate level of attention by the medical community.

Personally, the hardest challenge for me recently has been my inability to run. Running is part of my identity and my favorite stress-reliever, so being unable to do more than a 30 sec jog without pain striking my knee with a hammer has been driving me insane. Like, I look-like-a-creeper-staring-at-that-female-jogger-from-my-car-window insane. I've accepted the dietary changes, the social awkwardness and need for planning that celiac disease has given me. This little present has me crying for a major refund.

I miss my running trails!

So, when I saw my dad lacing up for his morning jog (the jog we usually take together), I hated celiac for weakening my body. I hated Lady Luck for sending celiac my way. I hated the devil in my ear whispering that I'd never regain control over my own health. And then I clicked on USA today and saw Meb Keflezighi's smile at the Boston Marathon finish line.

A year ago today, the world suffered a great tragedy. Lives were lost, wounds were created, and the victims of the Boston Marathon bombing still wear fresh scars. Nonetheless, there is victory in that defeat. Runners have returned, crowds have cheered and a community has shown that even tragedy can be beaten. Even the broken can be fixed.

My battle - any person's battle - with celiac disease is the same kind of marathonTwenty-six miles is a long way to go, and an endless amount of 24-hr, food-filled days is a similarly formidable stretch. But nothing - hills, tragedies, setbacks, and sacrifices - can stop us from reaching the finish line of a happy, healthy, fulfilled life. 

Gluten free can still be happy!

Because, just like many runners re-learned how to walk and jog with plastic limbs and families learned how to love and laugh even with an empty seat at the dinner table, we can learn to love our bodies again. We can learn what foods to nourish ourselves with, what vitamins to boost our immune system, and build a family of fellow diet-challenged foodies. 

It has been a long year for Boston, and a similarly long run awaits for every celiac. But I - we - can do it. One mile at a time. 

What is/has been the hardest stretch of your food allergy marathon? Where do you find inspiration? Comment below!


  1. LOVE your post Casey! Keep up the good work and wonderful writing!

  2. The first year is the hardest stretch! I too struggled with weight, food issues, and not being able to bound back as quickly as I thought I would after going GF. Give yourself time - emotionally, physically and mentally. We all have our own unique battle we having to fight, but it does get better! I found my healing through reading blogs, writing and allowing myself to feel all the emotions that come with the change. It sounds like you are doing a GREAT JOB!! Keep up the great work. Much love and support.

    1. Thanks so much for commmenting and the support! I'm sorry you had to deal with some of the same issues, but it's definitely helpful to know that I'm not alone. Thank for the motivation and love - you guys are definitely a big part of what is keeping me going :)

  3. Such a great post!! And yes, one mile at a time -- great perspective that can work for so many different areas of life!

    1. Thanks for the compliment and the comment! Yep, I definitely try to use this perspective for everything in life! :)


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