The Journal, University of Illinois at Springfield Weekly Campus Newspaper

Diet restrictions hard to stomach on campus

November 17, 2009
By Melissa Conrad

A majority of college students enjoy the freedom of eating what they want when they want without a second thought.  Students with specific dietary restrictions and digestive diseases, however, must be more conscience about what they put in their mouths.

Students with digestive diseases such as Celiac disease and Crohn’s disease must diligently watch what they eat or they may be unable to function for days. 

People coping with Celiac disease are unable to digest and absorb gluten, a protein found in wheat, barley and rye. This means that those with the disease must cut out all bread products from their diet. The only treatment for those with it is maintaining a gluten-free diet.

“One in one-hundred people in the United States has Celiac disease,” Dr. Mark Demeo, Celiac Specialist of Rush University Medical Center in Chicago said. “It went from one in 1000, to one in every 100.”

To try and accommodate students with dietary restrictions, UIS Food Services has done a few things.  Chef Howard Seidel from the UIS Food Emporium said a student with specific dietary needs can meet with a Food Service representative to go over their options.

“For some [students], it’s as easy as just making them aware of the ingredients in our dishes so they can choose items on an informed basis,” Howard said.

“With others, including Celiac, it can be more difficult as just having a utensil that was in contact with an item that causes sensitivity or a reaction is dangerous.”

Seidel also said that the Food Emporium is not turning a blind eye to students with needs.

“As to the future, we are very cognizant of the growing ranks of people with allergies and sensitivities and any specific plans we make will certainly have to include input from those groups,” Seidel said.

Food isn’t the only issue. Living on campus with a disease such as Celiac or Crohn’s affects other aspects of college and daily life.

Samantha Kruse, a senior Political Science major, was diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease between semesters at UIS. It is an inflammatory disease that attacks the gastrointestinal tract. Those with the disease often have skin rashes, arthritis and eye inflammation.

She said she copes with the disease by always taking prescribed medication and regulating her diet.

“Since my medication basically shuts down my immune system I have to avoid sick people and always be aware of my own health,” Kruse said.
Before her diagnosis, Kruse suffered symptoms of Crohn’s including joint swelling, constant fever, extremem weight loss and the inability to eat many foods.

“When I was diagnosed I was interning with a U.S Congressman and volunteering at a homeless shelter,” Kruse said. “Crohn’s made me slow down and take time for myself in order to avoid stress that may cause additional flare-ups of the disease.”

Kruse said that UIS has been very supportive in helping her cope with her disease.

“The UIS professors have been really supportive and understanding, especially when I need to attend a doctors appointments during class time,” she said.

“My coworkers in the recreational sports department at TRAC have been really supportive about it as well,” she said. “One of my bosses, Amanda Jillson, talked to me about the weight loss issues that come with the disease after I was diagnosed.”

Kruse said giving advice to other students with similar dietary diseases is tricky since the symptoms often vary.

“I would say just keep trying different things to figure out what foods, medicines, and work out routines work for them,” she said. “I would also tell them my own personal experiences, and tell them to share their feelings about the disease.”

“It is a pretty scary thing to be 20 and be told that you will have Crohn’s disease for the rest of your life, it is important to express those feelings,” Kruse said.


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