Gluten-Free Living and the Celiac Disease Foundation have a shared vision: to promote the advancement of celiac disease research and spotlight celiac and gluten-free champions in our community. With this vision in mind, Gluten-Free Living is proud to introduce passionate and dedicated CDF Student Ambassadors from across the U.S. Below, meet Bridgette Sanders, who was diagnosed with celiac disease at 4 years old and now finds support in her family and friends, who empower her to continue eating gluten free and to raise awareness and funds.
Celiac Disease Foundation Student Ambassador
My celiac disease journey began when I was just 4 years old. I had been sick for a very long time and my parents could not figure out why. They tried keeping me from eating certain things like dairy, soy and even strawberries thinking I had a food sensitivity, but nothing worked and I remained very sick.
After testing showed that I had no food allergies, my doctor ran blood work for celiac disease and it came back positive. I remember going to the children’s hospital for an endoscopy. Afterward, the doctor told my parents that the villi in my intestines were 99 percent atrophied. This explained why I was not growing and felt sick all the time. It has been nine years since I was first diagnosed and I am so thankful to feel happier and healthier because I am eating gluten free.
Sometimes it can feel a little weird not being able to share food with my friends and sometimes I get sad when I’m offered sweet treats I can’t eat. I’ve learned that these feelings are all normal and I reach out for support when I am feeling blue. I’m still learning to look at the bright side! When I was younger, my dad used to drive around to different fast food restaurants to bring me the toys from the kid’s meals that I wasn’t able to eat. My mom is an amazing baker and is constantly reinventing meals and desserts (she even makes gluten-free Twinkies). I feel very lucky to have supportive friends. When we go out, they try to choose restaurants that can accommodate my diet. At sleepovers and birthday parties, they always have fun gluten-free foods for me!
Our family is so thankful for the Celiac Disease Foundation. The organization has helped us understand so much about the disease and how to navigate our new lifestyle after I was diagnosed. They also host an amazing conference every year that includes a food expo. My mom loves getting the new information from the experts at the conference and I love trying all the new foods at the expo.
As a new student ambassador, I hope to help spread awareness. I also want to raise money for the foundation so they can continue to educate families and to hopefully someday develop a cure. I also hope that I can help others that may be suffering and let them know that everything is going to be okay.
After school, you can usually find me either at my performing arts studio taking a dance or singing class, or in the theater rehearsing for a musical production.