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

If you know anyone with a dietary restriction, you probably have some idea of how difficult living with dietary restrictions can be. What you may not realize is that the difficulty of having a dietary restriction goes deeper than just what foods you can’t eat.

I eat gluten-free, but despite what some may think, I do not do it to follow a trend or a fad diet. I have to be gluten-free for medical reasons. When I was 16, I was diagnosed with celiac disease, which is an autoimmune disease that prevents me from eating gluten. Gluten is a protein found in wheat, rye, and barley. When people with celiac disease eat gluten, it causes damage to their small intestine.* The only treatment for celiac disease is a completely gluten-free diet. This means I had to completely cut out foods with gluten from my diet. This includes pasta, baked goods, bread, etc. Basically, everything delicious.

At the time, cutting out the food was the hardest part. But I soon realized that most grocery stores had whole sections dedicated to gluten-free foods. I was able to find gluten-free versions of a lot of my favorite foods that were often just as good. As tough as it was to change my diet, in the almost 4 years I’ve been gluten-free, I have gotten used to it. For me, the toughest parts about having celiac have less to do with the food I can’t eat and more to do with how it affects my everyday life. Here are some of the things I have found to be most difficult about my dietary restriction.

First of all, gluten-free versions of foods are often more expensive than the regular versions. I remember being shocked when I saw the price difference between a loaf of gluten-free bread at the grocery store and a regular loaf. You also pay more for less because gluten-free bread tends to be smaller than regular bread. This is the case with many other gluten-free foods. Additionally, some restaurants charge extra to replace a regular hamburger bun with a gluten-free one. Some of the places I’ve been to charge as much as $3 extra.

Going to restaurants in general is difficult with a dietary restriction. Many places have clear labeling on the menu or have gluten-free options, but many do not. Some restaurants do not have any information about what is gluten-free on the menu, and sometimes when I ask the server, they don’t even know what gluten is.

The other problem is that sometimes restaurants claim that they have gluten-free food, but then they don’t take precautions to avoid cross-contamination. Cross-contamination is when food that is gluten-free comes into contact with food that is not gluten-free and thus becomes contaminated. Yes, that can happen. It can be something as small as using the same spoon to stir gluten-free pasta and regular pasta. And if you’re wondering if something like that can really have an effect on a person with celiac, it can. I had gluten-free noodles at a ramen place once and I instantly got a terrible stomachache, so I knew that they had not taken the proper precautions. As uncomfortable as this was, I am lucky because my symptoms are not as severe as others.

Some people with celiac or some other form of gluten sensitivity are so sensitive to gluten that they get extremely physically ill if they are exposed even to an extremely small amount of gluten. Because of the issue of cross-contamination and the fact that many restaurants still do not consider people with gluten sensitivities, finding places I can eat is extremely difficult. I have a few places that I am comfortable eating at, but I always get a little stressed when I am in a new place and have to eat somewhere I am not used to.

Because food is so integral to our culture, having a dietary restriction that prevents you from eating a lot of different foods can be socially isolating. For me, this has been the hardest part of being gluten-free. Something as simple as being at a birthday party and being the only one who can’t eat the cake can feel really isolating. When my friends want to go out and eat somewhere, they have to pick somewhere that I can eat, and it’s easy to feel like I am making things more difficult for them.

Luckily, I have great friends who always make me feel included and make sure that I can eat something anywhere we go. My advice to anyone with a dietary restriction is to surround yourself with people who support you and make sure that you are taken care of. When you spend time with people who understand your needs, you don’t feel as different or isolated.

Having a dietary restriction is far from easy. I would be lying if I said I don’t crave a real piece of pizza every once in a while. It’s exhausting to have to think about what you can’t eat all the time. Everywhere I go, whether it’s a restaurant or a family member’s house, I worry about what I’m going to be able to eat.

As tough as it is, it has taught me a lot. I have learned and I am still learning how to advocate for myself and talk to servers at restaurants about my needs. I am learning not to feel like a burden when people have to accommodate me. I am learning that having a dietary restriction doesn’t make me high maintenance or annoying. It is just a part of my life. *https://celiac.org/about-celiac-disease/what-is-celiac-disease/

Sheila Miller

Scranton '26

Hi I'm Sheila! I'm a sophomore journalism and electronic media major. I love to sing and listen to music, and I'm a HUGE Taylor Swift fan! I also love animals, and I have two dogs and two cats.