If you have Celiac Disease or another type of gluten intolerance, you know just how tricky eating anywhere but your own kitchen is. Even the smallest crumb of a food that contains gluten can cause someone with Celiac Disease to become extremely ill, sometimes leaving permanent damage to the digestive system. Because of the severity of these issues, two colleges, Cornell University and Kent State University, have decided to create dining halls that are entirely Gluten Free.

What is Celiac Disease

Celiac Disease is an autoimmune disorder in which white blood cells slowly start to break down the lining of the small intestine every time that gluten is consumed.

A healthy small intestine is full of folds and finger-like structures, known as vili, which increase the surface area of the organ and therefore help to increase nutrient absorption. When someone with Celiac Disease eats gluten, these vili get broken down. If gluten consumption continues, the intestines can become completely flattened, leaving the individual unable to absorb nutrients properly.

For someone with Celiac Disease, no gluten can be consumed whatsoever. Gluten is a protein contained in grains, such as wheat, barley, and rye, and so it is found in a lot of processed treats as well dietary staples like bread and cereal. As little as one millionth of a piece of bread is enough to make someone with Celiac Disease sick, while someone with a gluten intolerance may be able to tolerate this protein in small amounts.

Diet Related Stress

Because the consequences of accidentally eating something containing gluten are so severe, people with Celiac Disease have to go to great lengths to make sure that the food they eat is gluten-free. In a college dining hall with shared counter space, communal toasters, and salad bars with croutons, avoiding gluten can be nearly impossible.

Accidentally eating this protein can leave students doubled over in pain, unable to go to class or even hang out with friends. It is no wonder that the New England Celiac Organization deemed that students with Celiac Disease tend to "face overwhelming complications in their social and academic lives."

Colleges make it easier to be gluten-free

5-10% of college students have Celiac Disease in the US.

While this may seem like a small number, it is important to note that Celiac Disease is only present in 1% of the United States population meaning that colleges are a fairly concentrated location for this disease. Currently, Cornell University in Ithaca, New York and Kent State University in Kent, Ohio have the only gluten-free college dining halls in the United States.

These facilities are free of all sources of gluten. The options provided for students at these dining halls are intended to be appealing to both students with and without a gluten intolerance. The goal is to attract students who do not have gluten allergies so that those who have to eat in the gluten-free dining halls do not feel as isolated. Both universities still provide a more traditional style dining hall for students.