I often get asked this question: what are your tips for people who have just been diagnosed?
Truthfully, there are a million do’s and dont’s for people who are celiac/ have a gluten intolerance. This isn’t one of those lists. This is a list of things I wish someone had told me and reminders to give yourself regularly throughout the transition to a gluten free diet.
- Don’t ever apologize! This isn’t a tip, it’s a command. You should never apologize for taking care of your health. As Celiac and other gluten intolerances are invisible, it is often hard for people around you to understand how severe the allergy is. They might say things like, “oh it’s just a crumb” or “stop being dramatic you’ll be fine.” But, they’re wrong and it’s not just a crumb and chances are you won’t be fine. Advocate for yourself and your needs, if you don’t- no one is.
- Read labels! This sounds super simple but its actually not. You might buy popcorn from 100 brands that are GF and then boom! One day you pick up a bag of popcorn assuming it’s GF and low and behold it has wheat in the flavoring. So read labels, all of them, on everything. Hidden gluten is everywhere and can be especially sneaky by hiding in your processed foods. I can’t tell you how long it took me to realize that many “potato chips” are actually wheat chips including Pringle’s. Tons of things that don’t need gluten like soy sauce, gummys, dressings, and even corn chips actually have gluten in the frequently. So check, and check again, and if you don’t know just don’t eat it.
- You might gain weight. Sorry to be blunt. Just remember, it’s a sign your body is trying to become healthy again. If you’re like me, pre-diagnosis you lost a ton of weight and suddenly everyone thought your thigh gap was inspirational. Problem is, during that weight loss your body forgot how to eat properly, what it feels like to be full, how to get nutrients from the things your body eating. All of these factors may play a role in weight gain.
- Join Facebook groups. There are so many amazing GF Facebook communities out there. I myself am a part of Celiac Travel, Gluten Free Israel, and even a few groups in Hebrew. They’re really helpful for information, advice, and also to feel a little less alone in his struggle.
- Find other GF people around you. My best friend happens to also be gluten free and vegetarian and it is so helpful and fun to have someone to experiment on new recipes with, try new products, and plan GF trips. Having someone who understands what you’re going through is one of the most helpful things ever.
Most of all, give yourself time and let yourself rest. I often find it hard to consider being glutened being sick. I often don’t let myself take a “sick day” to recover from an accidental glutening but I should and I am working on it. Your body needs to heal after ingesting gluten and it might slow you down for a while. That is ok. You will get better but only if you give your body the things it needs. Don’t push yourself and be kind to your tummy.
Want to know more about my complicated diagnosis? I recounted it here.