I was diagnosed with celiac disease after the birth of my youngest child. I’ve been gluten-free since. So many people ask me how to cope with gluten intolerance or celiac disease, either for themselves or a family member or friend. Please visit my blog for tips on how I’ve maintained a gluten-free lifestyle for over eight years.
My bullet point advice for those beginning a gluten-free lifestyle:
- Consult a medical professional-a physician, naturopath, or nurse practitioner- before beginning a gluten-free diet. Although many people are gluten-intolerant, the only way to accurately be diagnosed for celiac disease is to have a blood test and endoscopic biopsy. In order for these tests to be conclusive, you must have recently eaten gluten.
- If you are gluten intolerant and eating the protein found in wheat, barley, rye, and oats bothers you, don’t eat it. If you are diagnosed with celiac, don’t eat it ever again. Believe me, this is tough and entirely depressing, however, it’s important to change your diet and never look back. The reality is that eating a Christmas cookie made with wheat will likely cause stomach upset and other physical symptoms for those who are gluten intolerant. For those who have celiac, it’s a different ball game, so to speak. It’s estimated that 1/8 of a teaspoon of gluten can cause damage to the villi of the small intestine for those with celiac disease. This can lead to malnutrition, osteoporosis, cancers, and an increased risk of developing other autoimmune disorders.
- Throw out the old toaster. Stat. In fact, don’t share a toaster with any family members who use it to eat bread containing gluten.
- Check ingredients and avoid products that could potentially be contaminated. This means don’t eat anything containing wheat, barley, rye, and oats (although oats manufactured in a gluten-free facility are likely okay). Also beware of products that are gluten-free, but are manufactured on the same equipment as gluten as they can be cross contaminated.
- Avoid malt as it’s made from barley. This means no malted shakes or certain fancy chocolates.
- Only use gluten-free labeled seasoning salts, soups, and broths. Johnny’s and Lawry’s contain gluten.
- Soy sauce and teriyaki sauce contain gluten. There are gluten-free varieties sold at stores such as Fred Meyer.
- If you are religious, Communion wafers are made with wheat. Some churches offer a gluten-free communion option. For those who are Catholic as I am, however, the host must be made of wheat. The Benedictine Sisters of Perpetual Adoration have manufactured a host that is of minimal wheat, which many parishes will serve if ordered. As it does contain minimal wheat, some celiacs still cannot tolerate it. Speak with your medical professional and pastor or priest. As for myself, I accept the wine, but abstain from the host as it is still in accordance with the guidelines of my religious beliefs.
- If eating out, choose places that offer a gluten-free menu. Always make sure to alert your server that you are ordering gluten-free because of an allergy. Side note, celiac disease is not an allergy to gluten, it’s an autoimmune disorder. However, unless you want to explain what the disease is and draw more attention to the fact that if you eat gluten , you will be sick for possibly days, just say it’s an allergy.
- Check medication labels and ensure prescriptions are gluten-free. This includes visiting the dentist. At my dentist office, there is only one gluten-free tooth polish. Even though it’s written in my file, I always remind my hygienist.
- Use hair, skin, and make-up products that are gluten-free. Guess who recently bought a conditioner containing wheat? Yep, even eight years later, I still have to stay vigilant.
- Finally, don’t let others push you into eating something that makes you sick. Celiac disease and gluten-intolerance are not a diet, but an often necessary lifestyle change. In fact, I personally lost weight easier when I ate gluten. Would I choose this “diet” if I didn’t have celiac disease? In all honestly, no, but we deal with the hand we’re dealt, right?