Erica Kusenick, 47 of West Virginia was recently diagnosed with celiac disease, a disease that prohibits the consumption of gluten, a protein found in grains such as wheat, rye and barley. Erica can no longer eat such common American staples such as bread, pizza, pasta, cake or beer. Needless to say her diet is considerably restricted due to her disease. So, what could be worse?
How about also abstaining from consuming any animal products what so ever?
Erica is one of a growing number of people who are being diagnosed with celiac disease but who also face another problem, having another dietary restriction such as veganism or vegetarianism. Vegetarians, people who don’t eat meat-but still eat dairy products, and vegans, people who don’t consume any animal products at all, face a real challenge when it comes to living with celiac disease.
“Eating out is a big challenge, we have to go to mainly Mexican restaurants where a lot of the dishes are normally safe (gluten-free) since everything is made from corn for the most part” Erica says, “It definitely helps that a lot of dishes are also vegan or at the very least vegetarian.” Luckily there isn’t any shortage of Mexican restaurants in Erica’s hometown in West Virginia and she says that traveling to new restaurants has become a great thing to plan weekends around.
As you may have guessed, being a vegetarian or vegan with celiac disease places you in a small minority of people, but thanks to new sites such as Vegiac.com, an online community exclusively for vegetarians and vegans with celiac disease, resources are popping up for people in this demographic. “I think it’s really important that this site exists to tell you the truth. It would be a shame for people to drop their vegetarian or vegan diet after being diagnosed with celiac disease. That’s part of the reason I made Vegiac”, the site’s creator said in an e-mail. “Vegiac” is a term describing someone who is either a vegetarian or vegan and also a celiac disease sufferer.
As a person living on a celiac disease diet and ingesting no gluten, thankfully, a lot of the products on the market that are gluten free are also vegetarian and some are even vegan. There are lines of frozen pizzas, breads and desserts that are both gluten-free and vegetarian or vegan friendly. Brands such as Amy’s, who offer frozen gluten-free and vegetarian or vegan food products are a favorite among “vegiacs”.
Regardless of the difficult diet and trying to watch what they eat people with celiac disease who are vegetarian or vegan, or “vegiacs” rather, are growing and using the internet to interact, communicate, share recipes and offer support to one another. The administrator of Vegiac.com who wished only to go by his member name, edgeyveggie, says “I bet by 2012 you’ll see a huge number of people who are either vegetarian or vegan with celiac disease. It’s becoming more and more common every day.”
Let’s hope for his site’s sake he’s right, and for vegetarian or vegan bread lovers everywhere that he’s wrong.