Why do I love the month of May so much? There are so many reasons! First, I get to fly back to my college town to play in the LPGA Kingsmill Monday Qualifier. New this year, I am playing in two professional tournaments up in Connecticut where most of my family resides, and they will be able to spectate for the first time ever. Lastly, I am moving into a new apartment with one of my best friends. I am fortunate that I have so much to look forward to in May, but there is one event in particular that I am most excited about - Celiac Awareness Month.
You may be thinking, “Wow, she might qualify for an LPGA tournament and she is more excited about a disease?” Using golf as a platform to raise awareness for a cause close to my heart combines both of my passions. Playing in an LPGA event and reaching a larger audience by doing so sounds like a win-win to me.
Speaking of raising awareness, I am really excited to launch my Celiac Series today! Each and every celiac has a unique story, and I believe it is important to share those stories, especially ones with a positive twist! I hope that reading and relating to these anecdotes will give you hope and direction when you find yourself overcoming another gluten-free obstacle.
By definition, Celiac Disease is an autoimmune disease that is caused by the intake of gluten. Your intestines cannot digest the proteins in gluten (wheat, barley, rye, and sometimes oats), and it actually makes holes in your intestines, which can lead to intestinal cancer unless you start a strict gluten-free diet. There are hundreds of potential side effects as well; it’s like a box of chocolates – you never know what you’re going to get!
In the last decade, the term “gluten-free” has become radically more prevalent. This is both good and bad news for celiacs. On the bright side, stores and restaurants now offer more gluten-free products (and they are starting to taste much better, too!). However, celiacs are not the only people who follow a gluten-free diet, and this is where the cross-contamination issue comes into play. Since people with gluten sensitivities do not have to worry as much about their meals being prepared around other foods with gluten in them, restaurant kitchens have made this the new gluten-free standard. Unfortunately, celiacs can’t tolerate even a particle of flour floating in the air, so eating out can be a stressful experience.
I was diagnosed with Celiac Disease during my sophomore year of college. I was at Penn State’s tournament with a huge rash on my elbows. After returning to campus, my dermatologist took a biopsy and diagnosed me with Dermatitis Herpetiformis, or Celiac of the Skin. 1 out of 4 celiacs have this as well, and both are treated with a gluten-free diet. After completing the standard celiac blood testing, I was confirmed celiac.
I relate my diagnosis to a round of golf. Like focusing on each shot at a time, I focused on each meal. By taking baby steps and utilizing my research found at beyondceliac.org, I felt in control of my transition and more optimistic about my new lifestyle. There is a steep learning curve, and I definitely made a few mistakes along the way (and I still do!), but I feel so much healthier since going gluten-free. My energy levels have soared, and I feel like I am truly helping my golf game. When trying to make it to the LPGA, I have found that every little improvement helps!
As I publish these dynamic stories over the next three weeks, I hope you will feel encouraged and proud of yourself for fueling your body correctly. Going gluten-free is no small feat!
If you would like to share your story on my blog, please reach out to me on my social media or my LinkedIn, all of which are linked above in the top right of this page. If you have any questions, please comment below or check out my website page here for more information about Celiac Disease and gluten-free brand recommendations.
Lastly, if you would like to help us find a cure, please fill out the patient survey at beyondceliac.org! They believe that, with enough data collected, they will be able to find a cure for Celiac Disease in 10 years. How cool is that?!