Diabetes Blog Week 2015, Day 5: Food Isn’t Just Food

By Lauren Stanford -

Shortly after being diagnosed with diabetes at the age of 6, I was sent to Clara Barton Camp for girls with diabetes (CBC). In my time at CBC I not only made countless friends, but there were also many learning opportunities. Two of my CBC friends, Caitlin and her younger sister Caroline, both had Celiac Disease, or gluten intolerance. They would tell me about the stomach pain they would experience if they ate gluten, how much they missed certain foods and how it wasn’t the most ideal situation. They both handled it gracefully as they did with everything else in their life. I remember only being envious when their gluten free snack looked far more delicious than mine. With how common it is for people with diabetes to also develop celiac, I often found myself thankful that I still have the freedom to eat whatever I choose.

Fast forward to this past January, when I was feeling sick more often than I was not. I contacted my endocrinologist, told him my symptoms, and he said what I was always scared to hear: “I think you might have celiac.” I was absolutely devastated. I went to get my test and waited, scared. I spent the weeks of waiting imagining all of the things that I loved that I would have to give up: pizza, beer, French toast, the list goes on. You don’t really realize how much gluten is in your life until you are forced to think about it.

Diabetes already makes me think about my food in a completely different way than the average person. I don’t see a grilled cheese, I see 30 grams of carbohydrates. I don’t see an apple, I see 15 grams of carbohydrates. I don’t see a Starbucks Frappuccino, I see a bazillion carbohydrates. Not only has diabetes forced me to see food as numbers, but it has also forced me to do some serious algebra before I can indulge into anything I want to eat. Adding up the total number of carbohydrates and dividing it by my carbohydrate to insulin ratio and giving myself a shot before every single meal, snack or even drink with carbohydrates. I have been doing this since as long as I can remember. If my celiac test came back positive, I would not only have to be a mathematician before I ate anything, but also a detective. I would have to check every single thing I ate for traces of gluten.

Luckily, my test came back negative. But this whole scare got me thinking. As a person with diabetes, food is such a huge part of our lives – it helps us when we are low, it teases when we are high and for my friends with celiac, food can really hurt them. But food also brings us together—this community has shown another ways and means for us to bond: through what we eat. Because we all know… food isn’t just food for us.

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