Tips to Support People with Celiac Disease
When someone tells you not to eat something — whether it’s chocolate cake or pizza — it now becomes the one craving wanted immediately. When individuals are diagnosed with celiac disease, trying to give up familiar foods can be very challenging and even lead to feelings of anxiety.
Suddenly having to maintain a gluten-free diet can be pretty tough. People who have experienced severe symptoms of celiac disease usually adjust more easily to a gluten-free diet because they feel so much better once they stop eating gluten. It can also be a harder transition for people who don’t have gastrointestinal symptoms, such as diarrhea, constipation, or abdominal pain and bloating. Beginning a gluten-free diet doesn’t come easy, whether symptoms were apart of your life before.
Following a gluten-free diet can be difficult both physically and psychologically. It is okay to acknowledge that this is somewhat of a grieving process. Many people with celiac disease have to change their daily routine dramatically, including the foods they buy, how they eat at restaurants, and how they handle any situation that involves food or products used.
It is going to be a challenge, and supporting someone with celiac disease is going to be a challenge too.
How to Support Someone with Celiac Disease
When you are diagnosed with celiac disease, simple things such as grocery shopping become a lot more challenging, especially at first. Living in a supportive environment with people who understand what we are going through can help a celiac heal more quickly and effectively.
We said it. Just be supportive!
When giving up gluten, it is very common for adults to experience feelings of anxiety, which can cause physical symptoms like palpitations and shortness of breath. As your loved one copes with these and other symptoms, a little extra patience and support from you can be very helpful.
Being diagnosed as a celiac is tough. It’s really tough. Your whole life has changed. Eating is something many are very carefree with, but once you’re diagnosed with Celiac Disease grocery shopping, eating out and traveling become much more challenging. It’s no surprise that from time to time all of this becomes overwhelming and depressing for some.
There are a lot of limitations this new diet places on us. As a close family member or friend, we would urge you to be gentle, patient and understanding.
Make Changes at Home
Let their home be the safest place for the celiac in your life. This could potentially be the only safe place a celiac has.
Set up your house and kitchen to help minimize and avoid cross-contamination between gluten-containing foods and those intended for your loved one with celiac disease. Equip your kitchen with a separate toaster, colander, and other kitchen tools for cooking for family members with celiac disease. You have to go through everything in your kitchen and think about how you use it.
Labels will become your best friend to help prevent cross-contamination. If your home is not going 100% gluten free, keep doubles of everything your celiac will use, one gluten free and one for the rest of the household. Watch for squeeze bottles of condiments rather than buying a jar that would require using a knife, this could potentially become contaminated.
Don’t know where to get gluten free labels? We didn’t either, so we made them. Order Gluten Free Labels now!
Do Your Research Too
Stop relying on the celiac in your life to do all the research. Reading books, following blogs or checking out forums can be a big asset. If you understand how celiac disease works and what happens to a celiac when they eat gluten, you will be in a better position to support your loved one with their new lifestyle.
There are an abundance of products out there which are wheat free but not gluten free. Someone with a wheat allergy could eat these products but celiacs cannot.
Gluten isn’t just found in bread and pasta. It can show up in some of the most surprising places!
When buying gluten-free products, watch out for sneaky gluten. Even if none of the ingredients contain gluten, it is not necessarily safe for someone with celiac disease.
Avoid the Hidden Gluten
One of the most challenging things about being celiac is that gluten can be found in the most unlikely of places.
When you are on a strict gluten free diet you are constantly reading labels and calling/emailing companies for clarification on what products contain. Be aware of this and do as much as you can to help find the hidden gluten.
Serving them something to eat or drink? Confirm it is gluten free before doing so. Don’t use it if you aren’t 100% sure – never assume something is safe without checking.
To avoid any confusion, look out for a certified gluten-free labels. Be mindful of labels that say ‘may contain gluten’ or ‘processed in a facility that processes wheat’. Many grocery stores have a gluten free or health food section where you can find gluten-free certified options.
Invite the Celiac Out
It is very common for people with celiac disease to become the forgotten ones. Sometimes we understand, but other times we just like to know we are thought of.
Our dietary requirements can feel extremely restrictive but we do still enjoy going out. Surprise, we don’t have to hide under a rock in fear of stray gluten crumbs!
People with celiac disease are still able to eat out, travel, and enjoy food just as much as the rest of us. Give proper time to prepare or come prepared yourself. Stop being afraid to ask your friend or loved one out. Research and locate a gluten-free or celiac-friendly restaurant – they do exist. Check out our listings of Gluten Free Restaurants.
What happens when we go somewhere that isn’t actually Celiac safe? Don’t fear, this isn’t our first rodeo.
When you go out with someone who has celiac, you will oftentimes deal with misunderstanding and misinformation.
Yes, celiacs do get tired of having to explain themselves and request their food be recooked, while others may feel shy about standing up for themselves. Your friend may appreciate some back up/having someone else to take the pressure off them every once in a while, simply ask to speak to the manager and help explain the problem.
Gluten Free is NOT a Fad.
Different people experience celiac disease in unique ways.
One person may get physically ill when they eat gluten, while another may feel slight discomfort, and another may experience a ‘mental fog’. Just because your friend doesn’t break out in hives does NOT mean that gluten has no effect. Remember that the worst effects of gluten are long-term impacts like diabetes and cancer. Don’t doubt their condition or relax your standards just because they don’t show any obvious symptoms right away.
Everyone adjusts to a gluten-free diet in their own personal way. Some people handle change quite well, while others are not going to handle it as well. The best thing you can do as a family member or friend of someone with celiac disease is to be patient and supportive — and remember that things will get better.
You can’t control your loved one’s every move, and it may cause added stress if you try. Remember that your loved one is only human and must take personal responsibility for their own health first.