Should celiac disease be a disability?

With allergies to peanuts and dairy being the topic of similar debate I thought I would dive into some reasons why celiac disease should be recognized as a disability.

I remember when I was first struggling with celiac disease (which I was unaware of at the time) I had to take multiple days off school. I had a constant pain in my stomach and my head would not stop pounding. Day in and day out I found myself trying to fight my way through the week. And when I was at school I was never 100% – I felt drained, it was difficult to concentrate, and the frequent trips to the bathroom meant me missing out on half the class.

Of course now that I know about having celiac disease there are things that I can do to prevent some of those symptoms – but I still struggle with it on the daily. Because of the celiac I have anemia which kills my energy levels and ultimately results in me feeling extremely tired throughout the day. Along with this I get dizzy spells with random bouts of nausea. I still have tummy troubles now and again that occur without being “glutened.” These continuous symptoms still make it difficult to work from time to time but I do my best to push through.

Now I know there will be people out there that read this and say “suck it up, buttercup,” but here’s where I think there would be value in recognizing celiac disease as a disability: I hate missing work, and as a personal trainer I feel like I let my clients down when I miss work. Sometimes this results in me pushing myself too hard to the point that I’m required to take time off to recuperate. But because of the frequency of feeling unwell I find that some people give me a sideways glance when I return, thinking that I’m making excuses, or “playing hooky.” If celiac disease was recognized as a disability I feel like it would make things easier in the workplace and replace the sideways glances with nods of understanding, greetings of empathy. It would also help spread awareness that celiac disease is not “just an allergy,” and that it comes with many complicating side effects that can throw off one’s work performance from time to time. It would also help celiacs feel like they’re not in the wrong for having to take a day or two off – as long as it doesn’t seriously compromise work performance. If anything I feel like it would boost work performance by having time to recuperate when needed!

Sadly, for now I’ll have to stick with the sideways glances until celiac disease becomes more widely understood – in the workplace and elsewhere.



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