If you’re new to celiac disease you probably need help for learning about a gluten free diet. The Canadian slogan for Celiac Awareness Month this year is #itsnotpretend. This highlights the fact that the gluten free diet is not a pretend diet, it’s a lifestyle.
The medical treatment for celiac disease is a strict gluten free diet for life. It’s not a fad diet, it’s not a choice, it isn’t for weight loss. Every time you eat gluten the small intestine is being damaged with significant health consequences. The diet is complicated by the fact that we live in a world where food is associated with almost every activity. These foods most often contain gluten so when you’re new to this world you need help to learn about eating for a gluten free lifestyle.
Where to start, what to read and who to trust are all important questions to ask. The amount of free resources available can be overwhelming so to help you get focused I’ve divided this overview into four sections.
- A Gluten Free Lifestyle vs a Gluten Free Diet
- Help For Reading Food Labels
- Trustworthy Sources For Medically Accurate Information
- The Gluten Free Community is Bigger Than The Celiac Community
A Gluten Free Lifestyle vs a Gluten Free Diet
Typical diets for weight loss are short term and people often cheat. It’s natural for people to ask if you can cheat or just have a little gluten and this drives celiacs crazy. It can make you feel like you need to justify your lifestyle, the one you didn’t choose but suddenly have. Dealing with this requires support and resilience. Learning to respond without being defensive is a skill others have mastered. Listen to what they say and create your own responses.
All the things you do make up your lifestyle. People with celiac disease cook, entertain, eat out, enjoy amazing food and travel the world. Here are a few things that might be new to your lifestyle.
- Taking your own food everywhere and anywhere even when you don’t want to.
- Eating dinner at home before you attend an event because there won’t be safe food to eat.
- Planning, researching, making a back up plan and calling ahead. Talking to hosts, managers, chefs and restaurant staff to find out if food is safe.
- Leaving restaurants or deciding not to eat when food is ‘gluten-friendly but not safe for celiacs.’
- Managing a chronic disease with a team of health care professionals to stay as healthy as possible.
Learning To Read Food Labels
Living a strict gluten free lifestyle means becoming skilled at reading food labels. The Canadian Celiac Association sells a small pocket dictionary. This little book lists thousands of words used on food labels and tells you what foods are ALLOWED or NOT ALLOWED on a gluten free diet. There are also grocery apps available to help with this. Look online and ask on social media for feedback on what people are using and what they find helpful.
When you’re new to the diet understanding all the nuances on food labels is overwhelming. Plan to do your best, expect to make mistakes and learn as you go. Having a clear plan for learning about the gluten free diet will serve you well.
The best news is that there’s a community of celiacs who understand and want to help others. Most people say the first year of learning about living gluten free is the hardest but they all agree it does get easier.
Trustworthy Sources For Medically Accurate Information
Social media is for being social and sharing your thoughts and opinions. When you want medical advice to manage a chronic disease look for trustworthy sources. This is my short list of trusted organizations where I look for current information on celiac disease. Many university hospitals will have similar information so use this list to get started learning. Bookmark what interests you and browse the free resources available to find what you need.
- Calgary Chapter of the Canadian Celiac Association – https://www.calgaryceliac.ca/resources/the-gf-diet/
- Canadian Celiac Association – https://www.celiac.ca/living-gluten-free/newly-diagnosed/
- Gluten Intolerance Group (GIG) – https://gluten.org/category/getting-started/
- Celiac Disease Foundation – https://celiac.org/about-celiac-disease/what-is-celiac-disease/
- Beyond Celiac – https://www.beyondceliac.org/gluten-free-diet/getting-started/
- Gluten Free Watchdog – https://www.glutenfreewatchdog.org/
- University of Chicago – https://www.cureceliacdisease.org/fact-sheets/
- Massachusetts General Hospital – https://www.massgeneral.org/children/celiac-disease/patient-resources
- Dr. Alessio Fasano – https://celiac.org/eat-gluten-free/gf-companies/alessio-fasano-md/
The Gluten Free Community is Bigger Than The Celiac Community
It’s important to be aware that the gluten free community is larger than the celiac community. There are many reasons people choose to eat gluten free. These groups may not be concerned about cross contamination or cheating on their diet and this is the difference between eating gluten free and living a gluten free lifestyle.
Make your goal to create a gluten free lifestyle you love and your approach will be different. I guarantee this will serve you well and help you focus on finding the help you need to be happy and healthy eating gluten free.
Celiac Awareness Month
This year for the month of May I’m writing four blog posts in honour of Celiac Awareness Month. I have 300 recipes posted so this month I am sharing blog posts with help for learning about a gluten free diet and lifestyle. Please share them with anyone new or struggling with the diet. I’d love to hear in the comments below if you found this post helpful as an overview for getting started.
Related Lifestyle Blog Posts
Click on the text on the image to go to that recipe/blog post.