October 3, 2016
If you or your child has been recently diagnosed with celiac disease, you may feel overwhelmed. While this feeling is understandable, there is plenty of hope for people with celiac disease. Here’s a quick guide to get you started on your gluten-free journey.
What is Celiac Disease?
The Celiac Disease Foundation defines the disorder as, “a serious genetic autoimmune disorder where the ingestion of gluten leads to damage in the small intestine.” While the damage occurs in the digestive tract, the symptoms can affect the whole body. Check out this list for some of the most common symptoms.
At this time, there is no cure for the disease. The only treatment is a lifelong avoidance of gluten. Even a small crumb can cause the autoimmune reaction and leave the patient in pain and gastric distress.
What is Gluten?
“Gluten” is a term for the proteins found in wheat, barley, and rye. However, going gluten free involves much more than cutting out bread and pasta. Gluten is found in many packaged foods. The best way to avoid gluten in packaged foods is to read every label. Learn how to read labels here.
The sneakiest place gluten lurks is in cross-contamination. A person with celiac disease can become very sick after eating something that has come in contact with gluten. For example, let’s say that someone toasts regular bread in a toaster. Then, without cleaning it, someone with celiac disease uses the same toaster to toast gluten-free bread. The person with celiac disease will become very ill from the minuscule amount of gluten that was left behind.
How to Eat Out with Celiac Disease
When the smallest crumb could make you sick, eating at a restaurant can be frightening. However, a little research can go a long way. Use apps like Find Me Gluten Free to find restaurants near you that serve safe food. When possible, look at the menu ahead of time and call the restaurant to verify that they serve gluten-free food.
When you get to the restaurant, ask for a gluten-free menu. If your server is unsure of what gluten is, ask for a manager. While it can seem like a hassle, it’s much better than getting sick
Other Important Tips
- Connect with other gluten-free people in your area.
- Always carry a snack with you, just in case you find yourself hungry and with nothing safe to eat.
- When you go to potluck parties, bring a dish you know you can eat.
- Pinterest is full of great recipes for gluten-free eaters of all ages.
- It’s OK to “mourn” your favorite gluten-containing foods.
If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to ask your healthcare team. Eating a gluten-free diet may be difficult at first, but it gets easier with time. After a while, it can become second nature!