Following a gluten-free diet can be tough, and for many of us, it can be one of the biggest challenges in our lives. After all, if you have celiac disease, a gluten-free diet isn’t optional, and even the smallest amount of gluten can leave you debilitated for days.
Can you imagine voluntarily doing something that would make it even more difficult to follow a gluten-free diet?
Well, that’s exactly what thousands of men and women in the U.S. military do when they volunteer to serve the country – knowing they will face countless hurdles in their efforts to maintain a strict gluten-free diet.
Captain Benjamin Andrasik is one of those heroes. His memoir, Gluten Free in Afghanistan, begins in a similar way to all of our gluten-free stories – with a diagnosis. While Ben was diagnosed with celiac disease after the standard blood test and endoscopy, the path he took as a celiac was anything but standard.
After enlisting in the Maryland National Guard becoming a commissioned officer, Captain Andrasik was deployed to Afghanistan. Almost immediately upon arriving at Kandahar Airfield in southern Afghanistan, he realized just how difficult it was going to be to maintain his gluten-free diet while deployed.
See, being a celiac in 21st century America isn’t the best thing in the world, but it’s not as bad as it used to be either. We have all kinds of products and menus and public awareness today that we didn’t even have 10 years ago. When all of those newfound creature comforts are taken away though, you realize just how vulnerable we really are.
In Captain Andrasik’s case, he essentially had to take everything into his own hands. The kitchen staff was clueless about the ingredients used to prepare food thousands of miles away, nothing was labeled with allergen statements like in the U.S., and there were significant language barriers as well.
This is not a story of pity. Instead, this is an account of how Captain Andrasik was able to overcome the challenges to his gluten-free diet and help and inspire other soldiers. In fact, he was even able to organize a gluten-free support group in Afghanistan!
This is an inspirational and uplifting story that I sincerely recommend to anyone who lives with a gluten-free diet. You can purchase your copy of Gluten Free in Afghanistan in paperback, or for your Nook or Kindle at GlutenFreeinAfghanistan.com.