Going gluten-free is bad enough; try explaining it to your Italian grandma

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    In this Patient File, Valerie DiMambro talks about the year she got divorced, found bed bugs and got diagnosed with celiac disease.

    The Pulse’s Patient Files series explores your stories of illness, recovery, health and coping. In this week’s edition, we talk with Valerie DiMambro about the tumultuous year that brought her a divorce, bed bugs and doctor’s orders to stay away from all of her favorite comfort foods.

    It’s a tough gig having celiac disease. Even more so if you’re Italian American. Imagine being told you couldn’t eat gluten (so anything with flour in it), but you’re surrounded by mountains of delicious pasta, pizza and cannolis. Not to mention having to forgo your grandmother’s macaroni. And then, there’s the side of guilt that grandma serves up, too.

    That’s the painful situation in which Philly-based standup comedian Valerie DiMambro found herself a couple of years ago. Valerie had suffered with stomach problems for nearly a decade. But the stress of divorce, losing her job and having to move back in with her parents brought matters to a head.

    Suffering from extreme stomach pains, weight gain, lethargy and numbness in her arms and legs, DiMambro finally went to her doctor. When the diagnosis came through, DiMambro didn’t even know what celiac meant.

    Celiac disease is an intolerance of gluten – a protein found in wheat, barley and rye. So any flour-based foods are completely out for those with the disease. That means no cakes, cheesesteaks, bread or pasta for starters. Suddenly all DiMambro’s usual comfort foods were off the table.

    Pulse contributor Sophie Reid recently caught up with DiMambro at foodie paradise Reading Terminal Market in Philadelphia to eye some forbidden fruits and hear her story. Click the audio button above to hear more.

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