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Jackie Ryan / Her Campus
Wellness > Health

The Realities of Being Gluten Free in College

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Maryland chapter.

The realities of being gluten free when you’re at home with unlimited snacks that your mom buys for you and being drunk at school are extremely different. As a teen, the last thing you want is to be told what to eat, especially when it comes to a delicious pizza at 3 a.m. At the same time though, my friends are just as bad as my mom and sometimes worse when it comes to me defying my allergy. Honestly being gluten shamed, which I know sounds funny, is a reality and sometimes that’s what keeps me from going off course. Is being gluten free realistic at college and if so how is it attainable? 

In 11th grade, after having mono twice and chronic sinus infections, my doctor tested me for many immunocompromised diseases, food allergies, and more. When the blood work came back saying I was allergic to gluten, I was so happy because changing your diet is pretty easy- until it’s not. 

In high school, changing my diet was fairly easy with the support of my mom and her fairly decent cooking skills. My mom even became gluten free with me. She really has been my greatest support with this, so when I came to college and left to my own devices, everything changed. 

As a teenager in a college thousands of miles away from home, my mom is not here to keep me in check on those days when I’m craving a bagel or Chinese food. When you have free reign over what you’re eating, sometimes it’s hard to be your own advocate. Especially when you’re going out with friends all you want is gluten filled food. In College Park surrounded by restaurants open late into the night, especially Pizza Kingdom, my restraint has gone out the window more than once. 

Freshman year, all hope was lost. I gave up on being gluten free and just accepted being sick almost every other week, and at the time it was worth it. When my friends wanted bagels on a Sunday after a long night out, I too got a bagel. When my friends wanted to share a pint of ice cream, I shared the pint of ice cream. I didn’t really understand what gluten was doing to me because my whole life I was used to getting sick here and there. It wasn’t really until this year after having bronchitis twice, and one time coinciding with the flu, that I really understood what I was doing to myself. Some might even say that what I was doing was self harm. I was knowingly harming my body over and over again thinking eventually I just wouldn’t get sick. Unfortunately that is not how life works, and that is not how my gluten allergy works.

Recently, and I mean as of 30 days ago, I have restarted my gluten-free journey. I feel so much better and genuinely think that my body looks better. But this past month has not been easy. I had to reteach myself to look at all the ingredients of the food I was eating and restrain myself after social events. I decided that if I absolutely needed food after a night out, I would turn to fruit or gluten free crackers, but, in all honesty, it’s better to just give up the drunk eats altogether. It is definitely not a piece of cake, and my friends, who are also gluten free- well, you could say part time gluten free- are still struggling themselves. But when it comes to your health you just have to decide what you are willing to sacrifice.

Sarah Hersh

Maryland '24

Sarah Hersh is an undergraduate journalism student at the University of Maryland! Her personality traits consist of napping, working out, binging tv shows and occasionally doing homework