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What You Should Know About Living with Celiac Disease

43381811 - gluten free loaf of breads on display in a health food shop.If you’ve been newly diagnosed with the chronic condition celiac disease, you probably have a lot of questions going through your head. You may even still be in a bit of shock, trying to navigate how you’re going to live with this diagnosis. You may be struggling with the idea of giving up some of your favorite foods or the huge life change you foresee in your future. The good news is, although it is a chronic condition, it can be a good change in your life. You’ve found the culprit that has been causing your issues, and now you can adopt a lifestyle that can start to heal you.

What celiac disease is not

To understand the chronic condition celiac disease, we should first discuss what it’s not. This is not an intolerance and it’s not an allergy. This is something bigger; it’s an autoimmune disease, which means your body has an immune reaction when gluten enters the body. This is important for others to understand as well, especially when you go out to eat, because even a small amount of gluten can cause a response. When ordering at a restaurant or going to a family’s house to eat, it’s important they understand the nature of this to avoid potential cross contamination. If anyone in your household will be eating gluten, it’s important that they also understand this reality, so they know to avoid cross contaminating your gluten-free food.

What is cross contamination and how do you avoid it?

Cross contamination happens when your gluten-free food comes in contact with gluten. Because a minuscule amount of gluten can be harmful, it’s important to avoid even the tiniest crumbs. This means not using a toaster or even a scratched pans that previously had gluten items in it. You also should avoid using a spoon to scoop peanut butter out of the jar if someone previously “double dipped” their knife in the jar while spreading it on regular bread. When you’re out to eat, it’s important that the server understands you absolutely need to avoid cross-contamination, which means they need to use new gloves, clean utensils, etc.

What can I eat with the chronic condition celiac disease?

Don’t worry, there are actually a lot of food choices. The good news is, many foods are naturally gluten-free like fruits and vegetables. However, you need to double check and snacks or other pre-packaged foods you buy to make sure they say gluten-free. Because of the recent gluten-free movement, there are a lot of gluten-free foods out there, as well as restaurants that offer gluten-free options (just be sure the restaurant understands the severity of your needs).

If you’re new to celiac disease, you may be unaware of which products are good and which ones don’t have the best flavor. You can consult others who have celiac for their recommendations or check out great lists online like this one from Spoon University, “The Definitive Ranking of Gluten-Free breads.” You can also try your hand at various gluten-free recipes. If you’re going to be baking, consider starting with an all purpose flour that is gluten-free. There are a lot of varieties of gluten-free flours on the market, but starting with something basic is easier, and it takes up less space. You can always get more creative as time goes on and you feel more experienced with gluten-free cooking and baking.

How do you identify if there is gluten in your food?

Of course, if the item says that it is gluten-free that’s a pretty good indicator. But, there are hidden sources of gluten you should also be aware of. Sometimes foods that you wouldn’t think would have gluten actually do. Make sure you familiarize yourself with gluten sources; you can check out this list from The Celiac Disease Foundation.

Is there anything else I should know up front?

If you’re new to this, it’s a good idea to find a nutritionist and a doctor that is very familiar with your chronic condition. They can help you practice a healthy diet and get any tests you may need (such as a blood test to check your vitamin levels and a bone density test). You may also want to find a support group or others with your chronic condition to speak with and get recommendations from. Also, keep in mind, that first degree relatives may want to get tested for it, since there’s a “10% chance of developing it if a first degree relative has it.” Lastly, be aware that some beauty products can contain gluten. While face creams, etc. are probably not an issue, lipstick and toothpaste could be since you could potentially ingest a small amount of these products.

Being diagnosed with the chronic condition celiac disease can be overwhelming at first, as you try to figure out what you can and can’t eat. It can also be depressing as you think about all the foods you’re afraid of losing. However, you’ve finally found the cause of your discomfort, and you can now adopt a healthy way of eating. Once you have more experience, you’ll feel more comfortable with the diagnosis, and you’ll find out there are a lot of great foods you can eat!

About the Author
Katie Cleary is founder of AutoimmuneMom.com.  She lives with her autoimmune conditions and her family in Austin, Texas.

This post contains opinions of the author.  AutoimmuneMom.com is not a medical practice and does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.  It is your responsibility to seek diagnosis, treatment, and advice from qualified providers based on your condition and particular circumstances.  Camino Real Ventures, Inc., the company that makes AutoimmuneMom.com available to you, does not endorse nor recommend any products, practices, treatment methods, tests, physicians, service providers, procedures, clinical trials, opinions or information available on this website.  Your use of the website is subject to our Terms of Use and Privacy Policy

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