I remember the first time I heard of celiac disease. My dad had been sick for months, and after a domino effect of events ending in a visit to the gastroenterologist's office, he was diagnosed with this disease.Celiac disease? Even with a medical background, this was something I hadn't heard of. When told that wheat, barley and rye were off limits from now on in order to get him back on the right track to health, it sounded easy. No bread or pasta, right? Little did we know that it means so much more than not eating bread or spaghetti. After I was diagnosed I learned what my dad was going through and how hard it was to live gluten-free.Celiac disease is a hereditary autoimmune disease that causes the gluten (the protein in wheat, barley and rye) to coat the villi, the finger-like projections in your intestines. This gluten coating starves the villi, and your entire body, of much needed nutrients which can lead to vitamin deficiencies or, in some cases, death. One of the hardest parts of having celiac disease is feeling alone. Although one in every 133 people has celiac disease (one in 22 if you have an immediate family member with celiac disease), most haven't been diagnosed, which means there are still few people that you can talk to about your struggles and confide in. Those that do have celiac disease and stick to the gluten-free diet are often made to feel like the black sheep of the family or their social group, which a lot of times leads to isolation.This is why I'm writing this column and why Gluten Free Grand Valley was created. This group allows those of us with celiac disease, gluten intolerance and wheat allergies to talk about our difficulties with eating gluten-free, both at home and out in public. This will also allow us to have a voice in the Grand Valley, educating the public and restaurants about what celiac disease is and how important our diet truly is. Our meetings are held the first Wednesday of each month at 7 p.m. at the Masonic Center and include a speaker on different aspects of having celiac disease and being gluten-free.This column will cover many topics when it comes to celiac disease, wheat allergies and gluten intolerance such as diagnosis and how to deal with these issues, restaurant reviews, recipes, facts, myths and more. I hope you join me each week for more!Angela Wetzel is president of Gluten Free Grand Valley.