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Navigating College Life with Celiac Disease: Tips for Success

Going to college is an exciting, yet challenging time in a young person's life. These challenges can be significantly amplified for those living with celiac disease, a chronic autoimmune disease that requires a strict gluten free diet. This post aims to delve into the experiences of college students with celiac disease, focusing on the journey of Sydney, a college student managing her celiac disease while navigating the often-tricky landscape of college life.


Sydney's story begins with her first year in college, a time fraught with new experiences and environments. As a celiac student, Sydney faced unique hurdles such as figuring out safe meals in the cafeteria, dealing with potential cross-contact, and explaining her dietary restrictions to her peers and cafeteria staff. This struggle to secure safe and nutritious food on campus was a recurring theme throughout Sydney's college life.


However, Sydney's resilience and determination shone through. Despite the challenges, she created makeshift cooking facilities in her dorm room, effectively turning a challenging situation into a manageable one. This ability to adapt and persevere despite her dietary restrictions illustrates the resilience of those grappling with celiac disease.


Ann with her daughter Sydney at College


While Sydney's experiences may be unique, they highlight the broader issues faced by college students living with dietary restrictions. One of these challenges was securing accommodations for her dietary needs, such as having a car on campus, which the college initially did not allow for first-year students. With a doctor's letter and her tenacity, Sydney successfully advocated for herself, securing the necessary accommodation.


The support of her friends also played a crucial role in her journey. Friends who were understanding of her condition and willing to help her manage her dietary restrictions provided an additional layer of support and comfort. This underscores the importance of empathy and understanding in helping those with dietary restrictions navigate their daily lives.


Despite the challenges, Sydney's story is ultimately one of triumph. Through her determination and the support of her friends, she managed to navigate college life successfully while managing her celiac disease. Her story serves as an inspiration to others facing similar challenges and as a reminder of the resilience and strength of those living with celiac disease.


Sydney's story is a powerful testament to the fact that, despite the challenges, living with celiac disease does not have to limit one's life experiences. It also emphasizes the importance of support, understanding, and self-advocacy in managing dietary restrictions.


I spoke with Sydney's Mum, Author Ann Campanella on The Healthy Celiac Podcast recently about College life.


Listen to the full Podcast episode here

Learn more about Ann and her Book, A Celiac Mom here


Ann and Sydney were kind enough to share the following tips to make navigating college life with Celiac Disease easier.


1- Have Your Own Car


This will give you the freedom to drive to safe restaurants and cafes as well as the grocery store to stock up on gluten free supplies. If your college won't allow you to have a car (as Sydney discovered as a freshman), request a letter from your doctor to get a medical exemption.


2 - Keep Gluten Free Snacks in your Dorm Room


Having snacks on hand is always helpful and will make life and studying much easier if you aren't going hungry.


3 - Make Contact with the College Head Chef in the Dining Hall


Meet with the head chef to discuss your gluten free needs and find out what meals can be made safely and discuss any prep protocols.


4 - Educate Your Friends


Instead of pretending you don't have to eat any differently to others, let your friends know about your gluten free needs. By doing so, Sydney found a group of supportive friends who regularly cook gluten free meals together.


5 - Prepare for Parties


Eat prior to parties and take your own alcohol as the options at the party may be unsafe.


6 - Trust your Instincts


You know your needs better than anyone else. If someone offers you food or alcohol and you aren't 100% confident that it's safe for you, trust your instincts and go without.


7 - Treat yourself


Take a break from College and enjoy a safe gluten free meal out at a restaurant or cafe you trust with friends.


8 - Set up a Make-Shift Kitchen in your Dorm Room


Have a mini-fridge, microwave and other basic cooking supplies in your own room. This can give you the freedom to store safe food and cook for yourself at your leisure.




In conclusion, the experiences of students like Sydney shine a light on the often-overlooked challenges faced by those living with dietary restrictions in college. Their stories remind us of the resilience of the human spirit and the importance of empathy and understanding.


It is my hope that sharing these experiences will help raise awareness about celiac disease and the challenges faced by those living with dietary restrictions, promoting a more inclusive and supportive environment for all.


For further guidance and support with your Celiac journey, be sure to join Ultimate Celiac System. Learn more here.






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