Living a gluten-free lifestyle has certainly become a little easier over the past few years with more gluten-free products popping up on store shelves due to an increase in celiac awareness and demand for gluten-free products. Many educational facilities are beginning to offer more options for students with special dietary needs (though, alas, some were forced to do so legally), as well as some hospitals, but all need to get on board sooner, rather than later, to keep students and patients safe.
What about our military men and women serving overseas? Are they being offered the necessary food to meet their special dietary needs? The last thing they should have to worry about is engaging in a war with their own bodies, because of the lack of safe food options. Embarrassingly I have to admit, I’ve never considered how our service men and women dealt with their dietary requirements while serving in a foreign country … until I read a Press Release about a recently published book called “Gluten Free in Afghanistan”, written by Captain B. Donald Andrasik, who was deployed in Kandahar, Afghanistan for a year. Captain Andrasik returned to the states in May.
According to the Press Release, Captain Andrasik, who has been gluten-free for a decade, wrote the book to raise awareness of the gluten-free diet and to prove “that anyone can handle it effectively … even among the world’s harshest and most dangerous conditions”.
I haven’t read the book, but here is a synopsis provided in the Press Release from SBWire dated 1/4/13.
“When we think of a gluten free diet, we often think of the challenges of going to the grocery store, or the frustrations of being out to eat. In this unique story, CPT B. Donald Andrasik – who has been on a gluten free diet for well over a decade – shares his story of maintaining a gluten free diet while at war in Afghanistan. The daily struggles of his demanding environment are compounded by the hassles and anxieties of needing gluten free food in a part of the world where resources are scarce.”
As the author explains, he hopes his book changes the public’s outlook on the gluten free diet and how it can be managed.
“I chronicled my gluten free adventure for a number of reasons. First, my overall mission was to increase awareness and promote acceptance of the GF diet and lifestyle. I also wanted to provide an inspirational guide to all of those who feel they have struggled with their special diet, gluten free or otherwise,” says CPT B. Donald Andrasik.
Having endured all of the challenges of foreign deployment alongside those of his diet, CPT B. Donald also hopes to raise awareness for his fellow servicemen.
“I hope to draw attention to our service members who need these accommodations to thrive. Being at war and on a gluten free diet is a distinct hardship, and if you know what you are getting into you understand there’s no easy meal,” he adds.
Since its launch, the book has garnered a consistent string of rave reviews.
“CPT Andrasik puts into perspective being on a medically necessary gluten free diet. While many of us might grumble a bit at the inconvenience of it all, CPT Andrasik shares his experiences in navigating the gluten free life under extremely difficult circumstances. Great read for anyone who is on a gluten free diet, knows someone on a gluten free diet or wants to appreciate the extent to which our service members go to serve their country!” says Bambi Sturgeon, who reviewed the book on Amazon.
Another reader, L. Padden, was equally as impressed. They said that, “As a fellow celiac and Air Force Reservist I enjoyed reading about another military members life with celiac disease. I typically don’t read personal stories but when I read about this book from CeliAct I just couldn’t pass it up. Sometimes its just nice to know there are other people out in the world going through the same thing as me. Not only did I learn some cross contamination issues, common products that I may not have realized contained wheat/wheat interactions, I found a support group in a sense.”
With so much success on his hands, CPT B. Donald Andrasik is proving that the world of special diets can always result in victory.”
Captain Andrasik, is certainly an inspiration to anyone newly diagnosed with celiac disease, or any food intolerance, who is struggling to adhere to a new diet. There are indeed challenges that come with a diagnosis, many will remain for life, but knowing Captain Andrasik was able to succeed in keeping himself healthy, under what I can imagine to be the most extreme difficult conditions, I know I will be doing a little less “grumbling” over the inconvenience of my gluten-free lifestyle … well at least for tonight! I applaud the captain for not only raising awareness of celiac in general, but also for bringing attention to the importance of providing safe, allergy-friendly food for our military personnel around the globe. Hopefully his voice will continue to be heard and improvements made wherever necessary.
Gluten Free in Afghanistan, published by Pasadena Purple Publishing, is available on Amazon: http://amzn.to/VGDF6G
About the Author: CPT B. Donald Andrasik
Born and raised in St. Mary’s County, Maryland, CPT B. Donald Andrasik started a gluten free diet at 15 years old, after having symptoms related to celiac disease. After graduating from Chopticon High School he Enlisted with the Maryland National Guard in Jan. 2001, so he could serve his country. He attended and graduated from the University of Maryland Baltimore County in 2005 with a bachelor’s degree in psychology and a minor in biology, while earning his commission in the United States Army. He is currently a logistics officer with a unit based in Havre de Grace, Md., in the Maryland National Guard. He served a year long deployment going overseas to Kandahar, Afghanistan, returning in May 2012. He currently lives with his wife, son and daughter outside of Baltimore, MD.
You can read the complete Press Release HERE