10 Things I Wish I Knew About Celiac Disease
- You can’t cheat – Seriously, don’t do that to yourself. If you can’t take your disease seriously, how can you expect others to? Besides, there’s a reason your body was reacting badly to gluten so do your mind, body and spirit a favor and keep it healthy! Here’s a great post from Gluten Free Gal that touches on this point.
- Join a support group – Whether you’re newly diagnosed or a long-time gluten free eater, support groups are great resources for all things celiac disease. Connect with people who are going through the same thing and have been there, done that with countless products and can give great recommendations. Find your local Celiac Support Association (CSA) group and attend their next BBQ or get-together!
- Don’t trust a product just because it says ‘gluten free’ – Learn to love label-reading! The sad truth is that many products tout “gluten free” claims but could still have a facility with cross-contamination. Your best option is to look for products that are Certified Gluten-Free, which means you can trust that the product you’re eating will not get you sick.
- A lot of people just don’t get it – If you tell someone you have a severe peanut allergy, chances are they take it seriously because they’re familiar with the harmful reactions. So why don’t we get the same response with celiac disease? Truth is, we’re trying! The best thing we can do is help educate others (especially those who are also gluten intolerant) on what celiac is, how to avoid getting “glutened” and what it means for your diet.
- The Internet is your frenemy – When you were diagnosed, chances are you jumped right onto Google to read anything and everything you could find about celiac disease. While the Internet has plenty of great information, keep in mind that anyone and their sister can go online and write a blog post about celiac disease and gluten – most likely with information that’s wrong. Make sure to find a reputable source, such as the Celiac Disease Foundation, Celiac Disease Center at Columbia University and the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness.
- Don’t be afraid to explain – Whether it’s your family, coworkers or a waiter, don’t be afraid to explain your disease. People can’t help you if they don’t understand what the problem is. Have patience, and understand that because they don’t live it every day it may take a while for them to understand. Be thankful for people close to you who make an effort to accommodate your needs, especially for large group get-togethers.
- What you ask your waiter matters – You’re sitting down at a restaurant and the waitress comes to take your order. You ask for their gluten-free dish and tell her you can’t eat any gluten. She looks at you and asks, “But is it for real?” Ouch. Unfortunately the gluten-free diet “fad” has tainted much of the authenticity of gluten intolerances. So how do you communicate that, yes, this is real and a very serious issue? Jury’s still out on that one, but we recommend explaining in the simplest way possible – “I have a serious autoimmune disease called celiac disease and can’t eat any gluten, so no bread, flour or wheat of any kind.” If they’re familiar with it, ask them to talk to the chef so he/she is aware of any cross-contamination issues. If not, go right to the source and ask to talk to the chef!
- Brush up on your cooking skills – Another great result of having celiac disease? You’ll learn to love cooking! When you have to scan ingredient labels like a hawk, you begin to have a great understanding of ingredients and how they work together. It can be easier (and more affordable) to make your meals, so take advantage of using fresh fruits, vegetables and meats to create mouth-watering meals your whole family will love.
- Sauces are sneaky buggars – Wheat-based foods like pasta, bread and cookies are easy to spot but sauces are the #1 culprit for getting “glutened.” Soy sauce, BBQ sauce and even ketchup can contain gluten. The good news is there are gluten-free versions of all your favorite sauces, so just make sure to read the label carefully, and then read it again!
- Life is a blessing, not a curse – Walking through the grocery store or ordering from a restaurant may feel like the world is collapsing around you, but remember things could always be worse. You could still be undiagnosed and suffering from gluten symptoms, fighting headaches, stomach aches and fatigue – not to mention any intestinal damage. Instead, you’re on the path to recovery, and probably eating a lot healthier than before! Don’t let celiac disease control your life – you have so many others in your shoes who can offer advice, resources and kind words!
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