Most of my posts are aimed at helping those of us who are on a strict gluten free diet. When you are diagnosed with celiac disease simple things such as grocery shopping and eating out become a lot more challenging, especially at first and we need all the help we can get. Living in a supportive environment with people who understand what we are going through can definitely help a celiac to heal more quickly and effectively. For this reason I decided to write a post aimed at the close family and friends of someone who has been diagnosed with celiac disease. The following question is one you may be asking yourself.
How can I support someone with celiac disease?
- Know what you’re dealing with. Do your research whether it be reading books, following blogs or checking out forums. If you understand how celiac disease works and what happens to a celiac when they eat gluten you will be in a better position to support your loved one in the transition to their new lifestyle.
- Understand that wheat free doesn’t mean gluten free. There are a whole bunch of products out there which are wheat free but not gluten free. Someone with a wheat allergy could eat these products but celiacs cannot. Gluten is a protein found in wheat but also in rye, barley and oats.
- Be aware of hidden gluten. One of the most challenging things about being celiac is that gluten can be found in the most unlikely of places. When you are on a strict gluten free diet you are constantly reading labels and calling/emailing companies for clarification on what products contain. Be aware of this and do as much as you can to help out.
- Don’t use it if you aren’t 100% sure. Nothing can be taken for granted when it comes to eating gluten free. Something which used to be gluten free may change it’s recipe making it no longer safe or something you think is naturally gluten free could have added flavours or additives which contain gluten. Similarly, one brand of corn tortillas may be safe whilst another with the same ingredients is not due to the method and location of it’s production. Never assume something is safe without double checking.
- Understand that cross contamination is an issue. Many people assume that a little bit of gluten couldn’t possibly do any harm but when you have celiac disease a crumb can make you sick. If you live with a celiac the best thing would be for the whole household to go gluten free. This way there is no chance of them being contaminated by accident. If this isn’t going to be possible for your family then keeping gluten containing food in a separate area of the kitchen and using different pots, pans, cutting boards and utensils to prepare it is the next best option. This way the celiac in your family will feel comfortable knowing that they don’t have to worry about bleaching and scrubbing everything done before every meal.
- Provide emotional support. When you are diagnosed as celiac, it’s tough. It’s really tough. Your whole life has changed. Eating is no longer the carefree activity it used to be and grocery shopping, eating out and travelling have become much more challenging. It’s no surprise that from time to time all of this becomes overwhelming and we get down and depressed about the limitations the new diet places on us. As a close family member or friend I would urge you to be gentle, patient and understanding. As a newly diagnosed celiac we must go through a grieving period. We will be alright but we need a little time.
When you were first diagnosed, what did your friends or family do which helped you the most?