Hiya, my name is Craig, and I was diagnosed with Celiac Disease as a young teenager in 1997. I was a very sick and skinny pot belly kid with classic Celiac Disease symptoms of diarrhea and horrid GI discomfort every day. After a tipping point of pain, my parents took me to see various doctors, conducted dozens of uncomfortable tests and eventually I was diagnosed with Lactose Intolerance to Celiac Disease in about a year. Although gluten-free to the uneducated masses is a buzz word these days that people often joke about on TV, it was very rare that anyone knew what gluten-free was back in the mid 90s and the packaged GF replacement food was made of terrible ingredients. The truth is gluten-free living is directly related to a serious auto-immune disease, Celiac Disease, that people must take more seriously.

When my GI doctor told me that I can be normal and grow if I ate strictly gluten-free with no Rx medication, I was shocked in awe! First thing I learned to say was, “No” to stay in control of temptations and everyday risks, and I graciously accepted the challenge. Being in high school was both a misery and a blessing to overcome the peer pressure of uneducated friends and foes whom teased me constantly. Yes, it’s an incredible hurdle everyday to stay healthy and in control, but I have done this successfully by researching the entire food supply chain which is very disturbing in America! From farm to a brand’s manufacturing facility to wild and crazy restaurant kitchen to the table, I found out and continue to learn that gluten cross contamination is rampant and risky for a Celiac and anyone with food allergies. Traces of nearly everything exist from hand to hand in the food supply. And not only is wheat-gluten everywhere, un-natural genetically made food called GMOs (genetically made organisms) are resistant to heavy usage of herbicides and pesticides everywhere in American farms to grocery store packaged foods.

By learning to say “No” a lot due to rampant cross contamination risks that exist outside of my safe GF kitchen at home, I learned to bake, cook and be very social by enjoying the small and big moments in life without succumbing to temptations and peer pressure. I eat at reputable restaurants with educated staff and chefs who go out of their way for me or I simply do not eat there! And of course, I bring fruits, nuts, water and other low processed foods to snack in my car or bag. I do not stay home, sulk and refuse that I don’t have a choice in the world because I have many.

My strictly gluten-free lifestyle seems normal because I have found people in my life who respect my auto-immune disease enough to not tempt with me gluten risks since I have anxiety and stress around eating out of my comfort zone. By bringing my own food when risks seem unknown, I retain control and good health ☺. I am actively running, hiking, snowboarding and traveling around the world. I share my concerns and triumphs on my social communities (Food blog, Instagram, Facebook and more) and encourage you to be involved to challenge what you see and join the conversations.

Be social and live your life, but never take any obvious risks. Trust only a few restaurants as most will poison you accidentally or obviously with their ignorance, and only trust 3rd party verified gluten-free food and beverage brands who try harder and have a true mission to provide healthy and nutritious GF food. Stay away from the big food corporations who make unhealthy packaged foods and label it gluten-free because now it’s popular. They don’t know food trends and only care about profits. Move on from them even if it may cost more money but find coupons and mobile rebate apps to save money. Now you can feel good about your gluten free lifestyle in a whole new way. Shop for fresh food, learn how to cook and make some new health conscious friends ☺ who can teach you as much as you teach them!