You are not alone. Celiac mom works to remove the feeling of isolation. - In the News - Can I Eat Here
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You are not alone. Celiac mom works to remove the feeling of isolation.

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Celiac mom works to remove the feeling of isolation

"In beginning all you can think about how unfair it is, but to me gluten-free is the easiest option. You can change your diet and have it completely change your quality of life."

Natalie Zanatta, a busy mother of 3, is just like any other mother. She spends her days juggling schedules, preparing meals, and loving her family. There is one thing that sets Natalie apart from the other moms at school drop-off: she and her son Hunter both have celiac disease. 

After her son went from the 99th percentile to the 1st in just 2 months, Natalie knew something was wrong. Her son was regressing. After a week in the hospital, feeling scared and alone, Natalie began to second guess her choices as a mother. She had been preparing all of his baby food, breast feeding, and making a healthy diet a priority for her children. Her oldest child had been a breeze. He rarely cried, grew beautifully, and was always happy. Natalie couldn't help but wonder if she'd done something different with Hunter. She underwent criticism from her family, the hospital staff, and then she began to criticize herself. 

After researching her son's symptoms, Natalie "diagnosed" him with celiac disease, which was then confirmed by their physician. She searched for and found a doctor who specializes in celiac disease.  After removing gluten from their family's diet, Hunter began to improve. He was gaining weight and progressing with his development. An unexpected result of the family going gluten-free was Natalie's migraines and most of the health conditions she'd been suffering with since she was 4 years old disappeared. As it turned out, she also has celiac disease.

Hunter is now in school. Natalie mentioned that the preschool he attended was less than considerate with his dietary needs. Often leaving crumbs on the tables after lunch and snack time and refusing to have the other students was their hands after lunch. The cross-contact was extreme. Her son had suffered bronchitis 15 times that year as a result of his immune system being on overload. Since then, she has found an effective way to work with the school and teachers. At the start of each year, she gives teachers, administrators, and staff a "newsletter" stating her child's needs, what he can have, what measures need to be taken, etc. Teachers and staff can reference this letter throughout the year. (Natalie will publish this letter on her website prior to the start of the school year.) She advises parents to be kind when talking to school officials. Give them the benefit of the doubt until they prove you wrong. She also advises you to open yourself up to conversation about celiac disease and allergies. Remember what a HUGE learning curve it was for you to figure out, and then remember that it is impossible to fully encompass within a 5 minute conversation. Natalie also volunteered to be homeroom teacher, so she could help her son and other students with allergies. Once a week, Natalie makes play-dough for the entire kindergarten class. This helps to eliminate cross-contact and helps her son to avoid feeling left out. 

Here are some tips from Natalie:

1. When being tested for celiac disease, it's important to know that blood tests can yield false negatives.

2. When you are first diagnosed and feeling overwhelmed, go back to the basics. Go back to the fresh meats and produce. It's when you bring in convenience foods that it gets confusing and costly. Basics teach your kids healthy living anyway, so it's a perk.

3. We make hunter aware of what gluten does. He knows it makes his belly hurt, he will feel sick, etc. This is important so he understands why he needs to look out for himself as well. 

4. Teaching your child to not be timid and ask questions can help them prevent accidental ingestion. Kids are offered food and treats all the time. Hunter isn't afraid to ask if a certain candy or treat is gluten-free. Adults can forget about allergies, if your child is able to remind them, this can decrease the chances of a reaction.

5. Sometimes when other people don't understand something, they can become mean. The best we can do is continue to teach them. We can't make everyone understand, but we can try. 

On top of her already busy schedule (no one can multi-task like a mother), Natalie devotes time to helping those with celiac disease. She has a blog called "Great Contradictions" where she works hard to create a feeling of comradery. No one should go through this alone. Parts of this disease are scary, and when you are first diagnosed, it can be overwhelming. Natalie offers personal stories, product review, recipes, and support.

Click HERE for a link to her website.