5 weeks of Celiac Disease interviews – how awesome is that?! Today, I wanted to end Celiac Awareness Month, and this year’s Celiac Series, with a specialty topic – Celiacs in Sports – with interviews from three other athletes also pursuing their dreams. You have already heard from Hallie and Rayna Katzman, tennis stars and co-authors of Everyone’s Got Something: My First Year with Celiac Disease, and we’ll be adding Clayton Steward, a collegiate basketball player, to the mix.
Lately, I have heard from moms of Celiac kids that it is inspiring to see other athletes pursuing their sports and dreams despite having Celiac Disease. I thought it would be a fun idea to gather some stories about Celiacs playing their sports in high school and college to prove that it is possible and that, after eating gluten-free for a while, you will feel better!
Clayton Steward “[hails] from the great state of Missouri and [attends] the University of Saint Mary, a small school in Leavenworth, Kansas. [He plays] basketball but is also very involved on campus being a part of Residential Life, the business fraternity, the student journalism club and a few others.” Sounds like he’s having a normal college experience, right? I can confirm that it truly is possible for Celiacs to play their sport at a collegiate level while also having an active social life on campus.
It can be scary thinking your undiagnosed Celiac Disease can keep you from the game that you love. Before his senior year of high school, Clayton experienced stomach flu-like symptoms and “faced a lot of anxiety and brain fog” pre-diagnosis. Hallie and Rayna Katzman “weren’t growing as well as [they] should have when [they] were younger. [They had] spaghetti-like arms, toothpick legs and bowling ball stomachs.” Since going gluten-free, the twins have “become much physically stronger and are now absorbing the nutrients from the foods that [they] are eating.” Clayton has also seen improvement since he went gluten-free and still finds ways to compete and help his team even when he accidentally gets glutened.
Helping their teams learn about CD have made their lives easier when they are competing. We all know team dinners and snacks are a regular affair, and that can be really stressful and isolating when you have Celiac Disease. While it is always safest to bring your own food, Hallie and Rayna’s team has gone above and beyond for them, bringing the team gluten-free snacks (sometimes individually packaged!) and ensuring the twins get first pick so as to avoid cross-contamination. They pointed out that, fortunately, many popular snacks are starting to have gluten-free substitutes, like pretzels and chips, so it really is easy to feel like part of the team.
What I love about these athletes is that they are staying positive about their gluten-free transition and looking to help others going through the same process. To read more about Hallie and Rayna’s book, please click here. Clayton has started a brand called College&Celiac, where he hopes “to connect with the college-bound and already-in-college students (and their parents) to share [his] knowledge, answer their questions, but, above all, just ease their minds and show them they can live a full, fun and well-accomplished life even with Celiac Disease.”
Continue reading below for inspirational advice about competing with Celiac Disease and for a list of these athletes’ favorite snacks:
Fruits (Apples, Bananas, Clementines)
Peanut Butter and Honey Sandwiches