The diagnosis has been confirmed…you have celiac disease. The moment after this life-changing news can be incredibly daunting. I know my diagnosis was hard for my parents, as I was only three years old. I was fortunate in the fact that I would grow up not knowing what I was missing with regular food, while I know that’s not the case for those who are diagnosed when they’re older.
The first thing to do is take a deep breath. Then, see if your doctor can recommend a dietitian or nutritionist who specializes in celiac disease. You can also research online for a dietitian or nutritionist who is close to you. The bottom line is that you now must remove gluten from your life and this unfortunately goes beyond food. You also need to check your hygiene and beauty products, especially things such as toothpaste, chap stick, lipstick, etc.
One thing to realize is that you do actually have to ingest the gluten in order for it to harm you. However, I’m always extra cautious about touching gluten and then touching my face, for example. My husband is extremely supportive and insists that we keep our home strictly gluten free. However, it is also very possible to live in a home with others who consume gluten.
Growing up in a family of five, I was the only diagnosed celiac, so I lived in a shared household. This is doable, as long as you’re extra cautious. It is best to have a dedicated gluten free area in your kitchen, especially for preparing food. It’s also a good idea to get your own set of cooking utensils, especially for things like wooden spoons that can’t be fully sanitized. Also, ensure that you have a separate toaster for gluten free bread.
If reading and understanding labels is difficult at first, one way to allow your body to start healing is to essentially start a Paleo diet. I teach fourth grade, and my students learn about Ohio history. The Paleo Indians were the first prehistoric people to come to Ohio. The Paleo Indians hunted extinct animals such as mammoth, mastodon, and an ancient form of bison. They also ate nuts, fruits, and greens. So, they were hunters and gatherers. In today’s world, this means eating meat, fish, vegetables, fruit, nuts, and seeds. The diet does exclude dairy, grain products, and processed food. You, your doctor, and your nutritionist can determine whether or not to exclude those foods.
The good news is that gluten free food has come a LONG way. I remember a family vacation when I was seven years old when my mom prepared a gluten free soup for me, tried it, and then threw it away. However, if you are used to eating gluten and love breads, pastas, etc. you may have a difficult time finding a gluten free substitute that you love just as much. Also, it unfortunately is more expensive than the regular brands. Don’t give up, though! Gluten free food gets better and better every day. There are brands out there that I haven’t even tried!
One of the biggest obstacles will be eating out. The good news is that dedicated gluten free restaurants and bakeries are becoming more popular! I’m very fortunate to have both where I live. However, there are some restaurants that are offering gluten free foods. Be very cautious, though. There’s a difference between offering gluten free options and understanding the risk of cross-contact of food in the kitchen. Talk to a manager or chef to understand how the gluten free food is prepared. Is there a separate area in the kitchen? Is the food cooked separately? Will the food come in contact with regular food?
The last bit of advice I have for now is that with the diagnosis of celiac disease can come the diagnosis of other autoimmune diseases or discovering other food sensitivities or intolerances. It’s important that you follow up with your doctor if you’re still not feeling well after your small intestine has had sufficient time to heal.
All in all, starting over after a celiac disease diagnosis can be daunting, but please don’t give up. If you can, try to lean on loved ones in your life to help support you. If that isn’t possible for you, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me. I’m always available for questions, or even if you just need a sympathetic ear.
I hope you have a wonderful day!
“It always seems impossible until it’s done.”Nelson Mandela