May is Celiac Disease Awareness Month in Canada!
Being myself celiac, I came across a great article (see below) on the quality of life of people diagnosed with celiac disease, and if people adhering to that diet actually improves health-related quality of life.
Of course, most people who begin and adhere to a gluten-free diet who are celiac notice a huge improvement in their mood, gastrointestinal tracts, their skin, their growth, and energy (provided that is the only issue with their body at that time). Nutritional deficiencies like B12 disappear, and there is a chance for the gut and body to heal.
What about the trauma of doing the actual diet, and being in a social or family situations where the diet is, in fact, a stress of its own?
Education about what products have gluten (hidden or not), understanding how to read food labels, learning how to eat is overwhelming on its own. Just understanding that you can’t have pizza day when you’re at school as a child newly diagnosed, and that birthday cake is out at a birthday party can be upsetting. It can feel like you’re the odd one out, for sure, and often those around you who don’t understand what celiac disease is and its potential health risks with gluten exposure can unknowingly add to the internal feeling of isolation.
5 steps to increase your emotional quality of life with celiac disease
- Educate yourself and your loved ones
- Find alternatives for yourself to have with you that you enjoy
- Have someone you love that you can trust keep you accountable (if you’re newly diagnosed)
- Get emotional support if you need it
- Find other things that make you feel happy and joyous, including being around people that also make you feel that way
Read as much as you can. At the bottom of this article are a few links for those places that have great gluten-free information. Have a health professional educate you on what is missing from your diet when you go gluten-free and how to replace it, healthily. Not everything gluten-free is good for your body. Restaurants (and chefs especially) can be surprisingly accommodating when you are out for a meal in helping make tasty, filling, and healthy options.
If you are an older person diagnosed and notice that other family members are having trouble, give them a short list of things that you can eat when you are with them and they are hosting. They will feel happy that they are not making you sick, and you will feel less afraid of being exposed.
If you keep looking back at all of the things you’re missing, you won’t be able to enjoy new things that you actually might like that don’t contain gluten. I know for myself, I remember realizing I actually liked salads as long as they had a great relationship with different proteins, a nice simple dressing, and some nuts and seeds. It got me away from sandwiches for lunch until I found gluten-free breads that I liked.
This one is important. It is going to be hard if you are a person who has milder symptoms and is only a small inconvenience to your life not eating wheat, so try to get someone you love to remind you, such as “are you sure it’s a good idea to eat that banana bread?”, and so on. It may help to remind you why you’re doing this in the first place if you write down something to store in your phone or in a journal of how you felt eating gluten and how you do not eating it.
Gluten-laden foods are plentiful, delicious, and you can’t have them. It sucks. Sometimes it sucks more than you are able to cope with initially. Allow yourself to feel sad/angry/left out…but we don’t want you to get stuck there. Get outside sources of emotional support such as psychotherapy if you need, especially if you have a support network that is less than supportive.
There is more to life than food! Of course you know this. I’m not suggesting not eating, I’m suggesting don’t hinge your entire life’s happiness on whether you can eat at every bakery you see. Enjoy your hobbies. Enjoy your friends and family that are loving and supportive.
Resources for Gluten-free Living
Burger JP, de Brouwer B, IntHout J, Wahab PJ, Tummers M, Drenth JP. Systematic review with meta-analysis: Dietary adherence influences normalization of health-related quality of life in coeliac disease. Clin Nutr. 2016 Apr 30. pii: S0261-5614(16)30067-X.
White LE, Bannerman E, Gillett PM. Coeliac disease and the gluten-free diet: a review of the burdens; factors associated with adherence and impact on health-related quality of life, with specific focus on adolescence. J Hum Nutr Diet. 2016 May 23. doi: 10.1111/jhn.12375. [Epub ahead of print]