Small Sacrifices, Big Gains


Marc Legel would rather be tinkering with computer networks or going on a Sunday drive than worrying about his digestive health. But when Legel, 23, began to experience gas, bloating, rumbling, general discomfort in his stomach — and worst of all, extreme fatigue — he had to put his high-tech passion aside and find out what was wrong.

He underwent a barrage of tests, which all came back negative. "At one point, my doctor thought I might have cystic fibrosis, which really scared me," he said. 

Finally, two full years after his first symptoms, a gastroenterologist diagnosed Legel with celiac disease. This actually puts him ahead of the curve, as many celiac patients wait several years longer before getting a diagnosis. 

During the waiting period, "I missed a lot of school," says Legel. Even when he was able to drag himself to class, "I had a hard time paying attention." Holed up at home most evenings, the gregarious Legel ached for his formerly active social life. 

Once diagnosed, Legel was informed about gluten and the foods he needed to avoid. The long list included all prepared foods, which "pretty much ruled out eating out," he says. 

"I had to learn to cook again." The discovery of a grocery store that stocked gluten-free pasta and bread helped ease him through the transition. 

"When my stomach settled and my fatigue lifted, I realized that these small sacrifices were definitely worthwhile," he says. In the two years since receiving his diagnosis, "I've never gone off the wagon." His family makes the job easier by preparing foods he can eat. "My mom bakes a mean gluten-free bread." He's even found a way to "eat out" again. "I eat something before going out, and while my friends are eating I just sip a drink," he says. 

Now symptom-free, Legel says that "life is good. I love my job and want to move up in the company." 

His parting words of advice to other people who suspect they might have celiac disease: "Keep a log of symptoms and foods eaten, and don't be afraid to talk to people about your dietary needs if you do end up having the disease. Most people are very supportive and accommodating."

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