May is Celiac Awareness Month, and my good friend Arica Sharma is an advocate who supports Celiacs with resources and educates non-Celiacs like me in how to be good allies. If you have Celiac Disease or know someone who does, I think you will find this interview with Arica illuminating!
What is a day in the life like for you as you live with Celiac Disease?
What’s a day like for you? Ha ha, if I’m honest, my day regarding food is the same as anyone’s day regarding food! You figure, what am I going to eat? What’s at home? If I go grocery shopping, then I can eat at home! What are my options around town? There’s an App for that – findmeglutenfree.com because I try my best to get take-out from kitchens that have dedicated GF prep stations.
I think what makes a Celiac’s day a hurdle most is on a social level. When you’re hanging out with others who are also hungry, one person can suggest pizza, and it’s a sure winner. But I’ll stand there with an immediate checklist in my head:
- Will they have GF dough? Totally possible!
- Will they have a dedicated GF kitchen? Unlikely.
- Will they maybe have a section and tools for GF food prep? Totally possible!
- Will they use the same oven? Oh – I’ll have to ask that too.
- Will they know which sauces, marinades, dips, and ingredients have gluten as filler or thickener? Ah man, they’re gonna hate talking to me.
- There will definitely be a salad. With no croutons, or dressing.
Meanwhile, other suggestions are thrown about, and eventually all eyes will rest on me, and someone will say, “Arica should pick!” Newly diagnosed Arica would have told everyone to eat what they want, and that she would be fine. Today, I much prefer to have others BEND TO MY WILL and we all try something new!
What is something you wish more people knew about Celiac Disease?
It’s not an allergy!
An auto immune disorder is the body attacking a part of itself. Just like with diabetes where the pancreas is affected, or rheumatoid arthritis that attacks joints, or Lupus attacking almost everything, in Celiac Disease the intestines are attacked. And like all of the above, if left untreated it leads to a host of other issues.
That’s why labelling is so important! Wheat is a common allergen, that’s why you see so many “may contain wheat” statements. That’s the company choosing to let you know that there isn’t a wheat free environment. That’s also why sometimes it’ll say “may contain wheat and gluten” in the same line, even if all the ingredients are gluten free. I really appreciate a company that takes the time to let me know my health matters to them, not just my money!
Tell us a little about your role with Canadian Celiac Association British Columbia. How did you become connected with the organization?
Raising awareness and funds for research to support the charity is a personal priority for me. I’m a talker and have zero hesitation discussing Celiac Disease with anyone who will listen!
Right now I am the co-editor of our newsletter, which has a range of Celiac related reading from medical research, interviews, first-person articles, how-to, and of course, recipes.
I was lucky enough to have worked at the last GF Expo in 2020, interacting with people who are newly diagnosed, as well as those with over 50 years of Celiac experience. It was an absolute life changer.
Having been told to “Never eat lunch alone,” I ventured to the kitchen at work and met Cynthia, who happens to be on the BC Chapter Board! Guess what magic happened next?
What resources does CCABC offer to those with Celiac Disease?
Our website and socials offer a host of resources! From safe places to eat in BC, FAQs, how-to tax deductions, and education for newly diagnosed folks. And of course recipes.
What is your favorite gluten-free restaurant in Vancouver?
I eat at Nuba a lot.
What do you wish you saw more of in restaurants in Vancouver?
A minimum standard of education would be great at restaurants. It would be a dream come true for all restaurants to know what Gluten is because they have to. For now, you can get certified if you want to here: https://www.brcgs.com/
How can people support CCABC and their friends or family members with Celiac Disease?
Advocacy is so important! Taking a slight interest in others can go such a long way! Like with any issue that affects a large population, it’s important to inform yourself. Use #ItsNotPretend throughout the month of May for Celiac Awareness! Spread the word, learn what others have to say, and try GF recipes for yourself at home because why not add a variety of flours and grains to your diet? Order the GF option at your local café, try the new gluten free bakery nearby. Every time you make a conscious effort to eat GF you help a Celiac!
Roar Cat Reads is a blog for queer, nerdy content. What’s your favorite nerdy book at the moment?
I am reading Eisenhorn by Dan Abnett right now! It’s a Warhammer 40,000 classic, and I’m totally digging it. Humankind hangs in the balance! Space, guns, heretics, alien conspiracies…. There’s talk of a TV show which could be pretty fabulous.
What social media or events would you like to plug?
May is Celiac Awareness Month, and we have weekly contests! I have been reaching out to local businesses and communities to raise awareness and increase participation. For example, there’s this great Queer Blog that is going to feature an interview about Celiac Disease!
June to July is our Marathon, so if you’re feeling like donating, or doing a marathon, do it with us!
@celiac_bc for IG and twitter, @celiac.bc for tiktok!