Dear Dude: My Girlfriend has Celiac and Cheats. What Do I Do?

cheating with celiac disease

I was laying bed last night at the ungodly hour of 3am wide awake. After another brutally long work day, my mind was simply too wired to fall into a slumber. I learned a trick many years ago if you have having trouble falling asleep. You try to find five different sounds that you hear. In the still of the night, not an easy task. The idea is that your mind will stop racing, which will help you fall into a relaxed state.

So I gave it a shot. And you know what I heard? Silence. Utter silence. Sure…occasionally one of my pups would snore or Mrs. Dude would scream out how much she loves me in her sleep, but I couldn’t get to the five sounds. And then it came to me. The lack of sound wasn’t silence. It was peace. It was tranquility. It was gratefulness.

There is no war outside my bedroom. My family is not going to bed hungry. There are no riots in the streets. I have a home. I have friends. Dang…I’m a pretty lucky guy. And with that…I fell asleep.

What does this have to do with celiac? It’s a stretch, but there’s a connection. Here is an email I received recently:

Hi Gluten Dude:

I have a good friend who is a bartender. She has Celiac Disease. She continues to drink craft beer. What are the long-term ramifications of this behavior? The rest of her diet is gluten-free from what I can tell. I’m talking more than 3 beers & sometimes it’s way more at least 3-4 times a week. What should I do as a friend? My experience with Celiac is limited, but I have been reviewing articles & see some of the side-effects associated with consuming gluten in her. What happens if she doesn’t stop this behavior? Is it going to kill her? Or just make her life uncomfortable? Thank you for your time & website.

Here’s the deal. Who knows what will happen if she keeps cheating on her celiac disease. She may develop intestinal or stomach cancer and die an awful (and unnecessary) death. Or maybe lymphoma.

Researchers at Columbia University announced in 2013 that patients with celiac disease who had persistent intestine damage (identified with repeat biopsy) had a higher risk of lymphoma than patients whose intestines healed. The study shows that “celiac patients with persistent villous atrophy-as seen on follow-up biopsy-have an increased risk of lymphoma, while those with healed intestines have a risk that is significantly lower, approaching that of the general population.

Or she may live for another 60 years, but I guarantee it won’t be a fruitful 60 years.

So those are the “health-related” reasons why she should stop. Now here is my personal opinion. If she’s drinking 3-4 beers almost every night, the issue may go beyond celiac. I bartended for many years back in my youth, and I’ve seen some bartenders who couldn’t handle being behind the bar without partaking in the spirits that surrounded them. It ain’t pretty.

But it goes deeper than that…and now I’ll finally swing back to how the heck this relates to my dream. If you are a celiac and you cheat…you’re weak. If you are a celiac, feel like crap a lot and yet you eat really unhealthy food…you’re weak. If you’re more concerned with being normal than being healthy…you’re weak.

And yeah…we all have weak moments, but instead of being weak, be grateful. If celiac is the biggest issue in your life, then you’ve got a pretty good life. And if you are going to cast that aside just because you want to drink craft beer, there is nothing I can do to change your mind.

Find that tranquility. That inner peace. That silence. And sleep like a baby tonight.

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19 thoughts on “Dear Dude: My Girlfriend has Celiac and Cheats. What Do I Do?”

  1. Hey Dude! Happy Holidays!!!

    From your Celiac Disease caused Cancer, and all that entails, Readers, I’d say you told her friend the truth and nothing but the truth. The sooner she pays rapt attention to her CD for the benefit of her future long term health the better. At least she’s got a friend who cares on her team.

    So I don’t miss out, my buddies will drink my craft beer for me … some bill me for the beer they drink for me but some will actually buy the beer they drink for me … what great friends I have.
    “Mrs. Wolowitz: Howard, it’s the phone.
    Howard: I know it’s the phone, Ma. I can hear the phone.
    Mrs. Wolowitz: Well, who’s calling at this ungodly hour?
    Howard: I don’t know.
    Mrs. Wolowitz: Well, ask them why they’re calling at this ungodly hour.”
    — The Big Bang Theory

  2. I think alot of times the reality of having a chronic illness is so scary and so foreign that people chose to ignore it. I don’t know if I think it’s weakness but more of an unwillingness and ultimately a fear to learn about your disease and acceptance that life is going to be slightly different. The whole concept of just pretend it’s not there and it won’t effect me flies into my mind. I work with clients everyday helping them not only accept the reality of their mental health illness but also acceptance of physical health issues. It takes some people months and even years to come to the acceptance.

    I feel like all you can do is encourage the friend to do some research and support them. Ultimately, change can only happen when the person chooses it and is ready for it. There is no amount of forcing it that will make them change.

  3. I think sometimes that “you might get cancer” thing doesn’t register. So, explain why… the more damage your tissues, etc. sustain, the more often they have to be replaced, the DNA copy-machine makes mistakes and the more copies made, the higher chance of mistakes. Cancer can result from those mistakes which is why we are more prone to develop cancer. And if she’s not suffering much from the effects of Celiac, the symptoms will gradually get worse if she keeps drinking. You could also refuse to go drinking with her and tell her that you won’t watch her intentionally poison herself. Tough love?

  4. Her thyroid will also get wrecked. I went 40 years before my thyroid shut down. Eventually I figured out it was from the gluten antibodies, but it wasn’t pretty. I felt like in had mono for years and suddenly gained an insane amount of weight. There are gluten free drinking options (including some great beers) but as the dude implied, she may need to curb her drinking in general. Perhaps she starts drinking gluten free and then switches over as the night draws on.

  5. I have a friend who has CD and will not go gluten free because she would have to give up drinking her favorite beer. I told her that her real problem was that she was an alcoholic and the combination of the ramifications of gluten and alcohol n her body would ensure her a miserable life as she ages….if not an early death.

    1. I was noncompliant for several months after diagnosis. For me, it was mostly because of the social ramifications of celiac in middle school. Ultimately what got me to follow the diet was a great doctor and the community of his team and the patients. I really hope your friend can find her reason to switch.

  6. I really miss craft beer. I was never a big drinker before. It I loved trying anything new. Giving up that freedom to save my health has been the easiest decision to make, but I still long for those days when I could eat anything I wanted and the worst that would happen would be gaining weight.
    But I couldn’t see clearly until after the gluten started to clear my system.

    1. I eventually had to give up alcohol entirely and I feel so much better and think much more clearly. I miss being able to have what I want too but I want to feel good over anything else. I now have a kombucha addiction. Ha ha!

  7. This is very scary. One major ramification of untreated celiac is severe b12 deficiency.

    Plus, heavy drinking depletes the b vitamins, and a damaged gut can’t absorb enough to replenish levels. It can be sudden or gradual.

    B12 deficiency is the closest thing I’ve ever experienced to pure hell. It’s not a road anyone should go down.

  8. I have ongoing deficiencies that still have to be addressed because I was diagnosed later in life and the damage was significant. So this young woman is looking at some really ugly, painful, frustrating and/or debilitating diseases as she gets older. She might not care now, but she will when those diagnoses start coming in. I had ADD for a while until I got off gluten. And that had a huge impact on my life. When I went to see Dr. Fasano, I was asked about any miscarriages I might have had, so I assume it’s related to that as well. It makes sense. If your own body isn’t getting the nutrution it needs due to all the intestinal damage, it certainly can’t support a growing fetus (or at least might have a hard time). Rather than list every negative impact gluten can have, let me just say this: The one thing I’ve learned from having Celiac disease is that there is almost nothing it doesn’t effect (including relationships).

  9. My neighbor is about 60, she has CD and does not follow a gf diet. She has had a blood cancer and just had her gallbladder removed a few days ago. I am 57, was diagnosed late in life, 55, and have a connective tissue disease, but have been gf for about a year and a half. I am getting better, the disease doesn’t hurt every day, I have longer remissions, and I am much happier.
    Sadly we cannot make someone change. She might have to get really sick before she takes the disease seriously. THEN she will wake up or die.

  10. I LOVE beer. I live in Northern Cali where we have dozens of great craft breweries and I can’t have a drop. SUCKS! If it were not for Glutenburg and Greens (best I’ve found so far) I don’t know what I’d do. Probably drink too much tequila (100% blue agave only). It’s tough balancing quality of life and long term health.

    “The one thing I’ve learned from having Celiac disease is that there is almost nothing it doesn’t effect (including relationships).” Anne, I couldn’t agree more. I was diagnosed this summer while going through a divorce after 31 years of marriage and I know CD and it’s effect on me psychologically (depression, anxiety and anger) were definitely a factor. This year has really sucked for me, but I’ll save the rant for another forum.

  11. I don’t drink any longer, but I know that they make many gf beer choices and I have heard they are good!

    I am sorry to hear about your loss of marriage. I also lost my husband (to cancer) around the time I was getting sick. I miss him, but am glad I have my life the way it is now. CD is the reason I am still single. Finding a partner in life is hard enough, but one with CD is harder. I have resigned myself to being single and making a full life without a spouse. If the powers that be want me to be in a love life, then those powers will have to make it happen because i stopped looking/trying. Being singer by the way is very freeing and fun! It just took a while to see that I don’t need someone else to make my life complete. It was scary as hell, but I am there. I fought and killed the dragon so to speak.

    CD causes slow starvation. Starvation is of the whole being (mind and body are one). The mind is not separated from the rest of the body. OF COURSE it will cause illness in many unfortunate ways. I often wonder how many folks in mental wards have undiagnosed CD. Since being GF for a year and a half now, my mind has healed right along with the rest of my body as they are one. This separation of the two makes no sense at all. Mental illness is a physical illness that effects the mind. IF docs could recognize this, diagnosing of CD and many other diseases would be cured. Processed foods are killing us. If food lacks nutrition, there is no point in eating it as far as I am concerned. Joy in life comes from feeling good, eating well makes us feel good. When we feel good, we are kind to ourselves as well as others. Win win.

    In the last month, after a yr and a half being eating only whole foods, i just started feeling well enough to go out and actually enjoy life. My mind is clearer, my body stronger, but I’m still sick. It takes time. LOTS of Time.

    Be as well as you can!

    1. A belated thanks (I keep forgetting to mark the followup box). I woke up last Friday and felt as close to normal as I have in years. I actually had some energy and wasn’t to depressed, even looked forward to the day. Then, in the middle of grocery shopping I got a call and a good friend had just passed away from cancer. Damn, it was all I could do to choke back the tears and try to focus on shopping. I guess I have a long way to go.

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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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