The Lesser of Two Evils?


Eating can never be a mindless pleasure when you have diabetes. First, there is the physical pain of every insulin injection (I’m old-fashioned and haven’t yet switched from syringes to a pump), although that’s not really much worse than a pinprick. Perhaps more annoying is the need to constantly count your carbs. This is easy enough when you’re eating something that you’ve prepared yourself, but harder when you’re eating at a restaurant or someone else’s house. You can never just reassure yourself: Well, I’m at a party so for once I’m just going to pig out and not worry about it…

Still, as always, things could be worse. My brother, in addition to having diabetes, also has celiac disease. Celiac disease, like type 1 diabetes, is an autoimmune disease, and in fact people with type 1 diabetes have a greater chance of developing celiac disease and vice versa. People with celiac disease have intolerance to gluten, a protein found in wheat, rye, and barley. This means they can’t eat bread, noodles, cake, cookies…the list goes on and on, and even includes products like soy sauce (no Chinese food!), some lip balms, candies, and ice cream, and even some medicines. Celiac disease isn’t the same thing as a wheat allergy–eating a miniscule amount of gluten could have the same adverse effect on a person with celiac disease as eating a larger amount would. So while that fruit platter may look gluten-free, if someone who’s just eaten a cracker accidentally touches a strawberry, a person with celiac disease can’t eat the strawberry. When people with celiac disease eat out, they don’t simply have to worry about taking the right insulin dose to cover the food they’re eaten–sometimes they can’t eat anything at all.

I have some first-hand experience of how restricting the gluten-free diet can be. Before my freshman year of college, I was tested for celiac disease. The results came back inconclusive and my doctor suggested that I try the gluten-free diet. For my first year of college, I had to eat in a dining hall that catered to students with special dietary needs, rather than in the dining hall where the other students in my close-knit residence ate. For the day-to-day aspect, I have to say that I’d rather have diabetes than celiac disease.

Does anyone reading this have celiac disease? Which do you find easier to deal with–diabetes or celiac disease?

Oh, and if anyone needs recommendations for gluten-free food or gluten-free restaurants in the Philly area… just let me know!

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12 years ago

I’ve just been diagnosed with celiac disease. Am trying to put a ‘oh, this is fine’ face on the problem. Honestly, there are a million other, scarier things to be diagnosed with. The only thing that worries me is eating out at a restaurant, stopping for food at wayside fast-food places (I can eat…salad?), or eating at Christmas functions, wedding functions, parties, basically anywhere I don’t prepare the food myself. Mostly, I feel okay with it but the thought of eating in a public place now has me in a bit of a mild panic.  

Becca Kantor
13 years ago

Thanks, Max! Glad you enjoyed it.

Max Apple
13 years ago

this is the first time i’ve read becca’s prose, i’ve read her fiction, and her prose is clear, direct and insightful. i look forward to reading her blog regularly.

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