Jordan Nuñez isn’t letting celiac disease bring her down. The 17-year-old junior at Xavier College Prep is on a mission to spread the word about celiac disease and let others affected by the adverse immune reaction know they are not alone.
Celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder triggered by eating gluten, which is a protein in wheat, barley and rye. While it is estimated to affect millions of Americans, the majority of people are undiagnosed or told they have other medical conditions instead, according to the Celiac Disease Foundation.
As Jordan has learned firsthand, a celiac disease diagnosis requires a complete diet change, often getting rid of bread and pasta that aren’t gluten-free. Her experience with celiac disease inspired her to share her story with others, which led to her creating her YouTube channel over this past spring break.
“When I was diagnosed in 2017, there were no resources for me to use to learn about living with celiac as a teenager,” Jordan said.
After struggling to resonate with celiac disease support resources geared toward middle-age people, Jordan wanted to find something she and other teens could relate to. Ultimately, she opted to take on the task herself through YouTube videos. “I decided to create a place for people like me, or parents of people like me, to come and learn about my experience and struggles, so they know that there are others out there like them,” Jordan said.
Jordan’s channel is slowly growing as she spreads positivity. “I didn’t create it to become famous or become an influencer,” Jordan said. “I did it to create a platform for people like me to learn and feel accepted.”
Seeing a comment from someone asking about gluten-free things or Jordan’s hobbies put a smile on her face. “Just that one comment made me feel like I succeeded with my channel, and it makes me feel really good,” Jordan said.
Jordan aims to help fellow teens by talking openly about symptoms and celiac-friendly meals. She knows how hard it is to navigate a new diet and lifestyle, something she says was challenging as a teen who was growing and eating all the time. “I was told that I had to change my diet and eating habits completely,” Jordan said. “It was difficult without a solid, dependable resource to guide me.”
Although her condition has gotten easier to manage over time, she still struggles occasionally, especially when she can’t find something to eat at a restaurant. “Those are the times that I get really sad and anxious about having celiac,” Jordan said.
In addition to helping others with the condition, she also wants to raise awareness and encourage people to be understanding of those with different dietary requirements. “I want people to know that celiac disease is a real condition, not a ploy to lose weight or be skinny,” Jordan said. She says sometimes she feels judged at restaurants for being gluten-free, as people often assume she’s just trying to lose weight by foregoing carbs. “It makes a difficult condition even more hurtful.”
Luckily for Jordan, she’s found some celiac-friendly food in Arcadia, and she’s covered some of her favorite restaurants on her channel. “The gluten-free sections at Safeway and Sprouts are a lifesaver, and Doughbird’s gluten-free pizza is my absolute favorite in the state,” Jordan said. “North Italia has many delicious gluten-free foods, and Chipotle is the best fast food restaurant for me.”
Jordan hopes to keep sharing her story and serving a purpose. “I want to continue to cultivate a platform for people and teenagers with celiac disease,” Jordan said. “I am planning on doing a ‘day in my life’ video and maybe some ‘cook with me’ videos and a ‘what’s in my pantry’ video showing my gluten-free staples.”
When she’s not working on her YouTube channel, Jordan keeps busy with schoolwork and planning for her senior year. “My goals for my last year at Xavier are to have fun, to continue my honor roll streak and to hopefully get into a really good college with an academic scholarship,” Jordan said.