How hard is it learning the Celiac's diet?

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Answered by: Sarah, An Expert in the Coping with Celiac Disease Category
You were just told that you have Celiac's disease. What now? You were probably given a pamphlet or handout explaining your new diagnosis and what gluten is. Celiac's disease is an autoimmune disease with a simple solution: a gluten free diet. At least it seems like a simple solution. As you will find, gluten is in many products and not all of those are food (some beauty products and supplements contain wheat derivatives). Learning the Celiac's diet is not as hard as it first appears. Once you master the basics of knowing what to avoid you will discover you can easily avoid gluten.

First things first, educate yourself on what gluten is and its many names. Wheat, barley and rye are the easy ones to spot. Unfortunately, wheat has many other names such as spelt, durum, and semolina. Triticale is a cross breed of wheat and rye which makes it unsafe. Fortunately, there are many companies labeling items as gluten-free or listing that they do use wheat in a shared factory. This will help make label reading less intensive. Take the time to learn the trigger words to make it easy to spot the unsafe ingredients quickly. Remember, fresh foods like vegetables, fruits, meats (not processed), and dairy are gluten free.

Next, learn what it will do to you. Knowing the effects of ingesting gluten and the long term health effects will help motivate you when eating gets tough. Cancer or neuropathy can be a helpful deterrent. Even if symptoms aren’t immediately felt damage is being done to the small intestine. Early in this lifestyle change it is common to “relapse” and eat a favorite gluten item (or many of them). Remembering the very undesirable outcomes of not following a gluten-free diet can really pull you through this moment.

Removing every temptation out of your home will also make it easier. In families where only one person needs to follow this diet this can be more of a challenge. Discuss the possibility of everyone following this diet at least at home until you have your mindset well under control. Contamination is crucial to avoid. Thoroughly clean pans, counters and utensils when preparing with gluten ingredients to avoid cross-contamination. Toasters cannot be shared between gluten-free and gluten breads. Keep gluten flours on a bottom shelf in the pantry away from gluten free items to avoid contamination.

Lastly, eating out will be challenging at first. Many restaurants will have a gluten free menu or list of items safe to eat. However this is not a guarantee that all restaurants will have a decent selection to choose from. Call ahead and talk to the manager or chef of a restaurant to see what options you do have if the menu is not online. Fast food restaurants are largely unsafe. Compile a list of local restaurants that you enjoy with gluten free items you like. Notify your server as soon as you are seated that you must be gluten free. A good server will be happy to help you dine safely. Make preparations when traveling to bring a cooler for gluten free foods and do the research of local fare before your trip.

Learning the Celiac's diet will have its challenges but once conquered the health benefits will outweigh the cons. You will discover new favorite foods and can even enjoy the myriad of gluten free items available on the market today. Finding new ways to enjoy food gluten free can be an exciting journey in your path to good health!

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