Connecting the celiac disease and food allergy/intolerance community together by sharing our stories to food freedom. From our beginning struggles to striving after a diagnosis, we can all relate and help each other out by sharing what we’ve learned and our unique personal journeys.
I’m so happy to be brining back the Freedom Feature! After a summer hiatus, we are back with some fresh new stories and positivity! I’ll be making the Freedom Feature a much more prominent and engaging community builder here on Strength and Sunshine. Stay tuned for more updates, but today, I am excited to introduce you to Hannah Crane, aka “@gluten_freeguru” on Instagram (were we recently met!) She is a HuffPost blogger and a wealth of information!
give us some background on who you are:
Hi! I’m Hannah Crane. I currently work full time as the Assistant Director for Executive Education at NYU School of Law. I’m also a part-time MBA student specializing in Social Innovation and Impact at the NYU Stern School of Business. I have been diagnosed with celiac disease since the fall of 2012 and am so lucky to have an incredibly supportive family, wonderful understanding friends who are always eager to try new gluten free restaurants, and a boyfriend who keeps our apartment 100% gluten free! I love to travel, write, and discover new gluten free foods!
what was life like before diagnosis?
Prior to my diagnosis, I had been experiencing symptoms for about 9ish years. When I first remember having clear symptoms I was a freshman in high school. I had gastrointestinal issues and was constantly sick with sinus infections and bronchitis. None of the medical professionals in my life addressed my health issues and instead wrote them off as symptoms of an “over achieving young woman” who must be “stressed,” which is something
how did you finally find the right doctor and get your diagnosis?
It wasn’t until my senior year of college at NYU that I actually learned about celiac disease from my friend Priyanka (you may know her as Anti Wheat Girl!). After countless conversations with Priyanka and other friends with celiac disease I begged my doctor to test me for celiac disease. I had to ask her four times before she begrudgingly agreed to order a tTG-IgA Test blood panel. A few weeks later when the results came back my doctor called me, incredibly apologetic, and instructed me to immediately begin a gluten free diet. And so, my gluten free journey began! It took me three years to find my way to the Celiac Disease Center at Columbia University and by this time my health had improved dramatically- I had energy, a clear and focused mind, my anemia was mostly gone, I was hardly getting sick any more (save for seasonal allergies), and I felt amazing. My doctor at the center did not want me going back on gluten and completing a biopsy because the proof was in the pudding- after comparing my blood tests pre-and post diagnosis and just looking at me it was clear that I have celiac disease.
how did your life change after the diagnosis?
This may sound crazy, but I really feel like I got a new lease on life following my diagnosis. I feel alive! And healthy! I didn’t even realize just how awful I felt before my diagnosis. Sometimes it shocks me that it took me so long to advocate for myself and demand answers. But when you don’t have a baseline of what being healthy feels like it’s hard to know just how sick you are. I am so grateful for celiac disease– which sounds crazy- but my life changed in ways I couldn’t imagine as a result of this disease. I am no longer hesitant to advocate for myself, I know my body and what it needs, and my journey back to health revealed how lucky I am to have the people in my life- my family and friends have shown me such love and support throughout this experience and I couldn’t be more grateful for that.
what has been the biggest struggle for you? have you been able to over come it?
Initially, explaining my diagnosis to some members of my family was really difficult. Celiac disease is just becoming something that people talk about and are beginning to understand, so even just a few years ago it was really obscure and unknown to a lot of people. But I’m so lucky that my family really rallied around me and supported me. They are my biggest supporters and are always excited to try new gluten free foods and restaurants- they’ve even modified their homes to accommodate me in ways that are so above and beyond it makes me cry! I am so lucky to have such a loving and supportive family.
I still struggle with social situations at times, like when I first met my boyfriend’s friends and family, or when I started school last fall. I always worry that people will think I’m a weirdo, or picky, or something like that, but I am also always blown away by how people understand and go above and beyond to make me feel comfortable. My boyfriend’s Dad for example is so amazingly supportive- when we visit him in Spain he always makes sure his kitchen is cleaned, stocked with GF products, and that all the gluten free drawers and cupboards are marked with stickers so I know exactly what I can have and what is clean.
At school, my study group members always make me feel so normal and included. One friend even made sure there was GF cider at his birthday party for me! I am so grateful for them, because it was something I was really worried about with going back to school. Being social is such an important part of graduate school and I am so grateful for the friends I have made who make being GF so easy and seamless!
what compelled you to start writing about celiac disease online?
I was lucky enough to start contributing to the Huffington Post Blog in the fall of 2014 and my first post was about mindfulness- something I was focusing a lot on at work at the time. However, I soon realized that it was really hard to find resources relating to certain GF issues I was experiencing at the time (like obtaining gluten free medication, or navigating cross contamination in restaurants, or traveling while gluten free) so I decided to start writing about my journey (the good, bad, and the ugly!) in hopes that I could help other people by sharing what I had learned.
what do you hope to add to the community with your advocacy?
I hope that I can connect other people with celiac disease to helpful resources that make navigating the gluten free world a little bit easier. I also hope that I can assure people they are not alone in this- we’re all in this together!
do you have a great celiac/food allergy tip to share?
Never ever be afraid to advocate for yourself! It can be so difficult at times to properly advocate for yourself when people around you might not fully understand, or if you feel like a burden or different (which is definitely something I used to feel a lot!). But the most important thing in this life is protecting your health- if you don’t, no one else will! Confidently stand by your health and your needs; the people around you will understand and actively support you.
what’s your celiac/food allergy pet peeve or myth you want to see gone for good?
That celiac disease is an allergy- it is not an allergy; it is an autoimmune disease! (<—amen!)
what are some of your favorite allergy-friendly foods/brands?
Ooo, this is a really hard question. Can I have a favorite brand for every food category? Haha! I love Against the Grain products, Schar is amazing, and I also really love Simply Organic spices (they are certified GF!!). For non-food products, I am in love with Acure Organics, Andalou Naturals, EO, Everyone Products, and ILIA makeup.
do you have a favorite recipe to share?
I’m still learning how to flex my cooking muscle, so I don’t really have any special or signature recipes, but this winter I made a berry meringue that was really really good! It’s super simple: the meringue is just egg whites and sugar; the crème is made with egg yolks, cream, and sugar; and I top the whole dessert with fresh berries- simple but delicious!
what’s one food you wish you could eat “one last time”?
Can I be honest? None. There is really no gluten containing food I want to eat- even without consequence. I guess it’s just too hard at this point to separate the food from my association of being so sick as a result of it. Plus, there are so many amazing gluten free foods and restaurants that I really don’t miss anything.
what do you hope to see in the future; for yourself and the community relating to celiac/food allergies?
Increased awareness and education! And honestly, I think we are really getting there. Looking around at our community I am very hopeful for a future where celiac disease is comprehensively understood in the mainstream, and I feel very lucky to live in a time where awareness is really heightened and where GF products are widely and readily available.
So tell me:
+ Did you have a difficult time getting your doctor to test you for celiac?
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