By COURTNEY RUSHING
It is Saturday morning and Eva Wohiren slowly climbs out of her bed. The clock reads 12:07 p.m., but it is her off day, so this is deemed acceptable and early in her mind. Her stomach rumbles and she instantly has a craving for a piece of chocolate cake and a Coke.
As she makes her way downstairs, careful to avoid the clothes sprawled across her bedroom floor, she is filled with the familiar aroma of her mother’s breakfast. Eggs, sausage links, bacon, waffles and dragon fruit juice are patiently waiting downstairs on the kitchen table. Her mouth begins to water. It is right then that she remembers she could not take one bite.
In Feb. 2014, Wohiren, 22, was diagnosed with gluten sensitivity and told she was allergic to common household foods including milk, eggs and beef.
“My first thought was wondering what there was left for me to eat,” she said.
Gluten sensitivity is a condition with symptoms similar to those of celiac disease that improve when gluten is eliminated from the diet. According to Celiac.org, celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder that can occur in genetically predisposed people, where the ingestion of gluten leads to damage in the small intestine. A person with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity does not absorb the proteins found in wheat, rye and barley products.
With the doctor’s diagnoses came Wohiren’s realization that many of her favorite foods were now forbidden. She cringes as she lists off cakes, hot dogs, burgers and milk products.
“When I eat these things in their normal form, the results are the worst,” she said. “The most common thing that happens is vomiting or extreme diarrhea. I basically feel like I am going to die and can’t move.”
There is no cure for gluten sensitivity and the only treatment is to follow a gluten-free diet. So, what exactly is left on her plate?
“I feel like I can’t eat anything so I basically stick to the same foods on a regular basis,” Wohiren said. “I am already a picky eater so that doesn’t help. I have to look at labels a lot, so it takes a lot of time at the store. Normally, I would eat things like chicken nuggets and fries, but now I am trying to eat a little cleaner and enjoy things like turkey burgers, oatmeal, salmon, rice, gluten-free pasta and corn.”
Wohiren is not the only one who had to adjust to her new diet.
“The hardest thing is remembering she is allergic to eggs and beef, two things I cook on a regular basis,” said Tina Wohiren, Eva’s mother. “I make breakfast for the family in the morning and always put everything on Eva’s plate. It is not until she comes down and says ‘Mom I can’t eat this’ that I remember, so I always feel bad. I know it has been hard on her since she loves those foods.”
But many people share the same struggles with gluten sensitivity. About six percent of the US population, or about 18 million people, have gluten sensitivity, according to the celiac center, compared to the 1 percent, who has celiac disease.
But, the benefits of a gluten-free diet are not only for the gluten sensitive. Gluten-free has become the latest diet frenzy, thanks to its effect on weight loss. Practically every supermarket isle now has gluten-free labeled merchandise.
“It’s not so much of an increase in gluten-free products as it is an increase in the advertisement of products that were already gluten free,” said Charles William, 53, co-manager of a Wal-Mart supercenter. “Food companies will do anything they can to jump on the latest diet fad, so that means they will put gluten-free on every label they can if it means more people will buy it.”
Supermarkets are not the only places people are looking for gluten-free foods. Restaurants have had to add to their menus to accommodate customers.
“The amount of people asking if we make things gluten-free has definitely increased within the past couple years,” said Cameron Blake, manager of Jack’s New York Style Deli at the Marietta Square. “I have noticed some restaurants adding recipes, but we are a deli. The basis of our menu is sandwiches and I can tell you right now we aren’t going to start carrying gluten-free this or that. Our clientele know what we serve.”
One way to determine if you are gluten intolerant is to take it out of your diet for at least 30 days, then reintroduce it. If you notice you feel better without it or worse once it is reintroduced, then gluten could likely be a problem.
Wohiren says her symptoms are minimal now thanks to her diet.
“It’s not so much of a diet anymore as it is a lifestyle.” she said.