A Letter from a 10-Year-Old Celiac

little girl celiac
helping celiacs

Dude note: To help celebrate and promote Celiac Awareness Month, I will be writing 30 blog posts over 30 consecutive days (weekends excluded) with the theme “30 Days of Helping 30 Celiacs”. Each post will be aimed toward helping one specific person or group of people. If you or someone you know needs help, guidance, advice or a shoulder to cry on, please contact me and I will do what I can to help. On the 31st day, you’re on your own. Totally kidding.

Today’s 30 for 30 blog post is for: Hannah (not her real name), a 10-year-old celiac who’s having a rough go at it.

I’ll let Hannah’s email speak for itself.

Dear Gluten Dude,

I am am ten and I was diagnosed with Celiac a little over three years ago.

You have all of the true stuff on your blog. You know that it sucks, and aren’t afraid to preach it. And it sucks (pardon my french). Because you never notice how much you’ll miss just buying pizza casually on the way home.

I think it stinks more for kids like me; sometimes people in the school cafeteria touch my food, or put food right on top of or next to my food, then say “It was an accident.” Because kids can be jerks (pardon my french again.)

It really helps to know you understand.


Hi Hannah. A long, long time ago, I was 10. And boy did I get bullied. It’s awful and I’m so sorry other kids are being mean to you. Yes…kids can indeed be jerks.

Do me a favor and do your absolute best to stand up for yourself. You’ve got a disease and it’s not your fault. Talk to your mom or dad and see if they can get involved. Maybe they can have the teachers talk to the other students and educate them about celiac disease. If they truly understood, maybe they wouldn’t be so mean.

Have your parents get in touch with me. I’d like to send you a yummy package of gluten-free goodies if they are ok with it.

And if you need a gluten-free pen pal, I’m game.

Hang in there my fellow celiac.


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25 thoughts on “A Letter from a 10-Year-Old Celiac”

  1. “Hannah”

    I agree with you that Celiac Disease does stink more for kids but eating the way we have to eat, if done properly, can make us much healthier than kids who don’t eat like us. It takes a little time to change our minds about what we have to do but it does get much easier after some time. Now that I understand what I have to do, I don’t even miss pizza anymore because it made me so sick. I wish I knew how to eat like you eat now when I was your age and I would be even healthier now at my age (older than your parents).

    I can tell you are already much smarter than most other kids because of your email to Gluten Dude. There will be mean adults in your life also, but you will already know how to deal with them because you are learning now how to deal with mean ignorant kids. You can help educate the mean ignorant kids and maybe some of them will grow up to be nicer more educated adults because you helped them. We don’t tell the mean kids we are smarter and healthier than them but you and most of the adults already know you are smarter and healthier.

    We appreciate Gluten Dude being here for us so much don’t we? We really do understand each other and you are not alone because we are all in this together!

    Gluten Dude gave you some good advice and you are already more special than me and the other adults here. You get special yummy gluten free goodies directly from Gluten Dude and we don’t. You really are lucky today! Keep smiling and watching your food for those mean kids – the mean kids will want to know why you are smiling instead of being mad or sad and then they will stop putting bad food on your plate because it won’t be fun for them anymore.

    Eat a bite for me of those yummy goodies Gluten Dude sends you because he can’t send any to me. I hope you have a great happy day today!

  2. It’s starting to feel like a long time ago that I was 10, too. But I do remember thatβ€”yepβ€”kids were jerks. Hey, at least as a kid diagnosed with celiac disease, you’re much more likely than an adult to fully benefit from your gluten-free diet and feel completely healthy! (Bet that’s sooooo helpful, right?) Chin up, and I hope you get that care package. There’s more to life than being able to conveniently grab a pizza (as nice as that is), and fortunately you have quite a bit of time ahead of you to discover it all.

  3. My 10-year old son says the same thing. “I didn’t eat lunch today because kids were passing their food over my food and I think a crumb may have fallen on my lunch. ”
    I could ask the school for a gluten-free table, but then he’d be eating alone, since his friends eat bread every day. He chooses to just stick it out and occasionally not eat lunch. πŸ™

    1. This makes me really sad. Can you give his teacher a stash of Kind Bars or some other trusted packaged snack so he can get a little something to eat when this happens?

  4. Hannah,
    I have been in your shoes. I was diagnosed with celiac when I was 8 and in the third grade. I remember getting bullied all the time because I ate “weird food” but my mom gave me the advice that Gluten Dude is giving you. Don’t be shy to tell the other kids they can’t do that to your food. Tell the kids what happens and how you get sick if you eat even just a small bit of their food. It is ok to stand up for yourself because as my mom has said to me many times before “there is no better advocate for you than yourself.” I will tell you it gets so much better. As I went through school I found more friends who would be extra careful with my food and some would even stand up for me when I didn’t stand up for myself. I am 20 years old now and in college and it has gotten so much better in comparison from what it was 12 years ago and I know it will continue to get better. Keep your head high and be a confident in yourself. Don’t let what the other kids do get or say get you down.
    From a celiac who used to get bullied,
    Lindsay πŸ™‚

    1. That is good advice Lindsay. My daughter was diagnosed at 14. Some kids are mean about it and others really look out for you. At least at 10 yeas old she is already this finding out. She will find out who her true friends are. You are right, it does get easier as you are older and your friends are more mature.

  5. I have a preschooler who is going to be a kindergartner next year who is Celiac and I fear cross contamination the most. Hannah stand up to those kids let them know what they are doing and how it makes you feel and what they are doing can do to your health! Educate them πŸ™‚ my son’s entire preschool class knows all about having to be gluten free and why and they are very sensitive to his diet and that is due to me educating his entire teaching staff and always talking about it. Maybe your Mom or Dad can ask the school if they can talk about Celiacs disease at an assembly one day and let the kids know how important it is for you to remain gluten free; It may open up the eyes of those Jerks who do that to do you.

  6. Hi Hannah!

    When I saw that you were getting teased and picked on in the school cafeteria, it struck home for me all too well. I was diagnosed with Celiac Disease when I was 15 years old and a sophomore in high school. I am now almost 20 and finishing up my sophomore year in college. I was teased all the time in high school because I had to eat gluten-free. I never understood why they picked on me, and I don’t know if I ever will. The very first day I got back to school after my endoscopy and confirmed diagnosis, I went to school, told people what I had but they didn’t get it. It was that first day back that I went into the cafeteria, sat down and pulled out my new gluten-free food. One girl took my food, tried it, spit it out in front of me and told me how disgusting it was and that it sucks I have to eat like that for the rest of my life. Another girl took a bite of her sandwich, looked at me, and mumbled, “yumm this is so good… oh wait too bad you can’t ever eat this again.” I left that day crying. But the teasing just got worse.

    I am here to let you know that I know EXACTLY how you are feeling. I wanted to eat in the bathroom stall to avoid anyone seeing me and my gluten-free food. But I want to let you know that it does get better, people do start to mature, and what I found that works is not to laugh off the jokes but to tell those who are bullying you about Celiac Disease and how serious of a disease it is. If you ever need someone to talk to or advice, I’d be happy to talk!! Us Celiac’s have to stick together, and unfortunately, we all have been in the same place you are now! Kids can be cruel, but you have to be tough and try not to let them bother you! It was really hard for me, but I’m learning to get over it! And I know you will be just fine!

    Gluten-free is not a punch line, it is a life line!!!!!!

    All my best,

  7. Yes, Hannah, it does suck to be teased, and a lot of kids are jerks. I was bullied as a kid because of my weight. When I was seven, I suddenly gained a lot of weight, and when I went to my new school I was bullied daily.
    Kids your age really don’t understand about health, unless they have problems themselves, but you know what you have to do to stay healthy. As far as them touching your food and putting their food on top of yours, you’ll have to keep everything in your lunch box until you’re ready to eat it, and don’t set anything out for them to touch, but the best advice I can give you is to not let them see you get upset if they do happen to touch your food, just push it to the side as calmly as possible. I’ve worked with kids for many years and one thing I know is that bullies want a reaction. They tease and bully for the sad fact that seeing someone else angry or hurt gives them some kind of satisfaction.
    Hannah, one thing I know for sure is that it does get better as you get older. Hang in there, sweetie.

  8. Hi Hannah,
    I just want to say hello and send you my love. Things will get easier. Hang onto that thought and yes, kids can be jerks sometimes. Look forward to that care package from Gluten Dude! He’s awesome right? Wishing you well and sending hope that between all of us, your parents and your school that things get better for you soon honey. πŸ™‚

  9. Hi Hannah!
    I was diagnosed Coeliac when I was 13, and I really understand how mean kids can be about it! As everyone else has said, you keep educating everyone and standing up for yourself. It’s hard, I know, but soon your friends will realise. My friends didn’t understand at first, but now they’re really helpful and they always want to try my food! Being coeliac has actually been great for me; I learned how to cook and started a blog too! There are huge benefits to it (like having GD send you yummy gluten-free treats!), and your friends will come around soon enough! When my grade had any parties at school, I used to bring in enough gluten-free cupcakes for everyone. People loved them, and it helped me teach people that gluten-free can be delicious!

    If you’d like to email me about anything at all, my email address is on my blog (www(dot)thefoodieteen(dot)com). πŸ™‚

    1. Wow, Alessandra, your blog is great; I’ll definitely be following it. I’m always jealous of good food bloggers, and I’m particularly jealous that at fifteen years old you’re a better food photographer than I will ever, ever be. Thanks for sharing the link!

  10. As a mother with two girls that have celiac disease. I see first hand how hard it can be for kids. I would love to help support Hannah. If you email me at doctorrach @ kidzshake.com I will send Hannah some of my kid friendly gluten free shake.

    Any other parents struggling with their kids may use “celiac” coupon at checkout to save 10%.

    Just looking to help. Hopefully this doesn’t look like spam.

  11. It is great to read our young Celiac family members giving such wonderful encouraging advice to Hannah from their personal experiences.

    My own wonderful daughter is 21 yrs old and I am as thankful for each of you as I am for my own daughter. I am always encouraged when I see the smart and caring members of the future of our country! You make old Daddys proud!

  12. Hi Hannah,
    I have Celiac Disease as does my nephew. He was diagnosed when he was 3 and now he is 11. He too struggles with kids at school sometimes. It’s got to be hard. I want you to know you’re not alone and that one day you’ll be able to help out another person who has this disease too. You’ll be able to be more understanding than anyone else they will know and you will be someone they look up to. Please stay strong and always stick to your diet. I did not know I had celiac disease until I was 38 (I know, old right?!) and my poor body was so broken by then. Stay healthy and stay strong. I’m proud of you!!

  13. Hi Hannah!

    A long time ago, when dinosaurs roamed the earth, I was 10 too. πŸ™‚

    Kids can be mean, but so can adults. They can be real poopyheads or jerks when it comes to celiac, so I understand why you are feeling bad about this. But I will tell you what my friend Elaine once said about having celiac. She said “it comes with its own built-in jerk-o-meter. You’ll always be able to tell which people are your real friends.” πŸ™‚ She’s right!

    I think you are very brave. See my avatar? well, I use that because someone dubbed me “the warrior princess” a few years ago when I was struggling to get well and I just would not quit. I lost a few friends along the way because they could not handle me being out of the game, but that’s ok. I have better friends now who look out for me and who share this path we walk. We’re strong, honey and for good reason. Don’t you forget it. πŸ˜‰

    I want you all to know that you are warriors, especially you young ones who have to deal with school and sports teams and so many places and situations where you may have to be extra strong.

    So, therefore, I dub you “Hannah, the Warrior Princess!”.

    Chin up, kiddo. You’re strong, you’re healthy and you’re a celiac rock star, baby!

    PS Dude has never sent me any treats, and we go way back…. so please say YES! and take them. He’s been hoarding them all this time at his house, apparently. (poopyhead) πŸ™‚

  14. Hannah,i understand your struggle i jad to eat lunch in the nurses office cause kids would mess with my food dont let bullies stop you from being you,celiac can be very heart breaking but i promise the people who love you willake sure your food is okay no one want to see a loved one sick,and as far as the bullies are concerned there ignorant and just dont understand im forty and i was discovered to have celiac at two its a battle there is no doubt in that but if you eat right and stay healthy the reward is unconditional love,dont ever change who you are snd most gluten free food is healthier than the food the bullies re probably eating i very thankful that this condition has more public awareness now tjen they did forty years a go so keep your chin you re a very special girl

  15. A story of hope! My son went gluten free last summer. As a 16 year old, he is in the middle of those terrible teens. However, his friends and even teachers have supported him. They make sure he sits at the end of the table so there isn’t cross contamination. His coaches make sure there are gluten free options for team feeds. This past weekend was prom. Since it is a small school, only 90 kids in the entire high school, moms made food. I made several gluten free options, including a chocolate cake. I also made signs to keep those who didn’t need it from eating the good food. Besides my son, there were two others who were gluten free at the dance of only about 24 people. That’s a pretty high percentage. They were so thankful to have safe food! Hang in there. It will get better, I promise!

  16. Hang in there, Hannah. I was diagnosed over two years ago, but I was in my early 30’s (another “oldie” πŸ™‚ ), Other kids bullied me when I was younger, but for different reasons, so I get it that kids can be jerks, no matter what makes you “different” from them. They don’t understand, and they use this as an excuse to make you feel low. I find that even some “grown-ups” don’t understand why I can’t eat the stuff they do because I get sick from it. I found a great bakery that specializes in gluten-free treats, and I go there every chance I get. It also helps to find the people that get to know you aside from your having Celiac. You don’t have to eat alone, it just sounds like you have to really push to have your classmates keep their food at their own seats. Have your parents tell your teacher(s) about your needs and that your teachers and cafeteria staff need to keep a close eye on those of your classmates that just can’t resist cross-contaminating your food. Repeat the fact that if they make you sick during the school day, they’ll have to help you deal with the consequences.

  17. Hannah-

    Being ten is tough enough but being a celiac and being ten, man it is awful. Good news, you found us, we are a great snarky (but fun) community. We know all about the bullies, be it ten year olds or 40 year olds. We struggle every day just like you. I get it. Blog with us and let off some steam, it could change you life.

    Jersey Girl
    Phone rings and Patrick answers it
    Fish: Is this the Krusty Krab?Patrick: No, this is Patrick.[he hangs up and whistles; phone rings again]
    Another fish: Is this the Krusty Krab?Patrick: [annoyed] No. This is Patrick.[he hangs up and continues whistling; phone rings again]
    Yet another fish: Is this the Krusty Krab?Patrick: [furiously] NO! THIS IS PATRICK! [hangs up; sulks] I’m not a Krusty Krab.
    SpongeBob: Uh… Patrick, that’s the name of the restaurant.
    Patrick: Huh? [facepalms] Oh, fish paste!

  18. You sound like a very smart and brave girl, Hannah! When people act mean, it is usually because they don’t understand something. Like Gluten Dude said, it has nothing to do with you. Try not to feel bad when kids do stupid stuff like you described. Hang in there and know that you have a whole bunch of people just like you that do understand. <3

  19. Although I do not have CD, just intolerant, I know the struggle of the Celiac community. I have friends dealing with it and it can be a huge challenge. I can’t imagine dealing with it at such a young age! Hannah, you have a great support system in Gluten Dude. Please know that it will get better! I’ve never understood why kids (or people of any age) feel the need to be bullies?? The advice I always gave my children (they are grown now) is, if someone has a problem with you, it’s their problem, not yours. Most bullies do it because it makes them feel better about themselves. You sound like a very smart girl and I have no doubt you will get through this and be even smarter and stronger because of it. Hang in there and know that you have this great support system to back you up.

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Who I am. And who I'm not.

Who I am. And who I'm not.

I AM someone who's been gluten-free since 2007 due to a diagnosis of severe celiac disease. I'm someone who can steer you in the right direction when it comes to going gluten-free. And I'm someone who will always give you the naked truth about going gluten free.

I AM NOT someone who embraces this gluten-free craziness. I didn’t find freedom, a better life or any of that other crap when I got diagnosed. With all due respect to Hunter S. Thompson, I found fear and loathing of an unknown world. But if I can share my wisdom, tell my stories and make the transition easier on you, I’ve done my job.

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