Did you know that having Celiac Disease is not the same as having a gluten allergy? It’s also different from a gluten intolerance or sensitivity, despite the fact that the treatments for these increasingly common issues are fairly similar. The main way to manage Celiac Disease, gluten allergies, and gluten intolerances or sensitivities is to remove all gluten from the diet, which is easier said than done, as gluten is widely used and can easily be ingested due to cross-contamination during food preparation. Just ask Amber, a high school student and Lauren’s Hope customer, who has been living a gluten-free life for over a year now.
“I’m 17, so I’m still in high school, and basically I was just getting sick all the time last year,” says Amber. “I’ve never been healthy but last year was really, really bad.” Amber explains that, after a long stretch of one illness after another, she went in for allergy testing. “I found out I’m allergic to everything. I’m allergic to gluten, fish, melons, berries, latex, yeast, and a bunch of other stuff.” While she reacts more strongly to some allergens than others, Amber explains that, “Gluten’s one of the main ones, because it’s in everything.”
Asked how she deals with avoiding gluten, Amber says once she learned what to avoid, eating a gluten-free diet just became normal for her. “In the beginning, it was really different,” she says. “Within a couple of months I was feeling a lot better. Now when I get gluten in my system I know right away because I get sick. It’s easy to keep it out of my diet because it’s not worth it.”
Amber quickly learned to pack her own food in case she finds herself someplace where she can’t be sure the food is gluten free. “When I go to someone’s house, I just bring my own Rice Chex or something. It’s easier now. In the beginning it was rough: Finding things I could eat and places I could eat, finding places and things to eat on the go. So that was a big adjustment, but once you find things you like, it’s not as bad as people would think it is.”
Plus, Amber says, she’s not allergic to quite everything, “Ice cream is my love food. I eat ice cream all the time. It keeps me sane. There’s allergy-free chocolate chips!” She laughs, “I love ice cream. Did I mention I love ice cream?”
Wearing Medical ID As A Teen
Teens, and especially tweens, are notoriously self-conscious about wearing medical ID jewelry, and Amber is no exception, having only started routinely wearing a medical ID bracelet a few months ago. “Wearing a bracelet isn’t a huge deal, but I just didn’t want to wear an ugly one,” Amber says. “It’s nice to have a pretty one that I like. It makes me feel safer, and it’s easier to bring it up in conversation. You don’t want to be all, ‘Hi, I’m Amber, I’m allergic to everything.’ It’s awkward as a teenager to bring it up, so this makes it a lot easier and less awkward.” Amber explains that, in addition to being an ice breaker for awkward conversations, her Lauren’s Hope medical ID bracelet, “…makes me feel safer in restaurants and when I’m hanging out with people who don’t know about it as much.”
Wearing a medical ID bracelet not only provides Amber with peace of mind, but her mom feels better, too, noting, “Kids don’t want to be different. Amber doesn’t like to draw attention to [her] medical issues, but pretty much everyone at school knows. She’s had a lot of reactions [and she] needs to be wearing the bracelet. Living her life is tough, but she loves life, and she just keeps going. I wish I could take [all the health problems] from her, but unfortunately I can’t do that. She takes it all in stride and she’s a great kid. She’s got great friends who watch out for her. They’re very unselfish. She’s blessed. She’s a good kid. That’s why they do it for her.” Amber is less serious than her mom, joking, “Basically, I have a lot of stuff on my medical ID.”
Asked what she would say to younger kids who don’t want to wear medical ID jewelry, she says, “I would say, it’s hard to think ‘safety first.’ but honestly it is safety first. Plus, it’s going to be a lot more embarrassing if you’re on the ground in front of your whole school. And,” she jokes, “you can still have ice cream!” Amber laughs again, continuing, “Obviously it’s a huge adjustment [to cut out gluten], but once you’re used to it it’s just your life. People go, ‘That must be so awful,’ but I don’t care what people eat in front of me, because I know if I eat that I’m going to get sick. I have my ice cream, so I’m good. I love ice cream.”
As Director of Sales, Marketing, and Business Development for Lauren’s Hope, Tara Cohen is often the voice of Lauren’s Hope. Whether she’s writing the Lauren’s Hope blog, crafting a marketing email, or describing a new product, Cohen brings a little personal touch to everything she creates.
Part of the LH team since 2012, Cohen has spent years learning about various medical conditions and what engravings are most helpful for each.
In addition to her years of experience at Lauren’s Hope and all of the research she puts into writing for LH, Cohen draws on her own life experiences to bring a human touch to the LH blog.