This post is in honor of all of us whose only advice was to “eat gluten free” after diagnosis!
1. Cry. Be angry. Complain. Mourn the loss of gluten from your life. You will never be able to eat pasta, pizza, chocolate chip cookies, or drink beer again. Feel sorry for yourself. Cry and yell some more. Get it all out, emotionally, at the beginning. FYI, I was so angry and in denial at first that I ate a whole sleeve of Thin Mint Girl Scout cookies and then cheesy pizza bread sticks within a 24 hour period right after my testing was complete…the effects on my body were so horrible, that I was able to then go gluten free and never look back (I just wish that I been smarter about choosing my last gluten-containing foods).
2. Learn about which foods contain gluten. There is a great list on the Living Without Magazine website (see link). Remember that you can never eat any of the following again: wheat (einkorn, durum, faro, graham, kamut, semolina, or spelt), rye, barley, triticale, malt, malt flavoring, and malt vinegar. Get used to reading ingredient labels and calling companies to inquire about gluten in foods and products. Two of my favorite lists come from the page www.withstyleandgraceblog.com:
3. Purge your kitchen, bathroom, and medicine cabinet of gluten. You will give away/throw away more than you could ever imagine. Gluten Free Makeup Gal’s website can help with cosmetics and www.glutenfreedrugs.com can help you to find out if gluten is lurking in your medications.
4. Get copies of your Celiac tests (antibodies, genes, pathology results). Read through them, learn from them, and share them with your family members who may need to be tested.
5. Find reliable sources about Celiac Disease and sign up for internet newsletters, Facebook pages, etc. My two favorites are the National Foundaton for Celiac Disease Awareness (www.celiaccentral.org) and the University of Chicago Celiac Disease Center (www.cureceliacdisease.org).
6. Do not give in to the urge to replace all of the foods you threw away (pastas, breads, salad dressings, etc.) with gluten free versions. Try one or two gluten free products out a week, as many of these foods are very expensive, may not taste good, and contain a lot of sugar and empty calories. Focus on eating a lot of whole foods (fruits, veggies, lean meats, fish, potatoes, etc) in the first few months if you can.
7. Explore shopping for GF foods online, as you may be able to save quite a bit of money. I’ve been able to order flours and mixes, i.e. Bob’s Red Mill, for almost 50% off what I would have paid at my local grocer.
8. Find a few “go-to” meals and snacks for when you are time pressed but need to be able to safely eat, i.e. Larabars and KIND bars.
9. Find a support group, whether it be it a local group or online. I have actually found some really nicely moderated support groups on Facebook.
10. Discuss whether or not you need supplements with your doctor or practioner. A lot of us are anemic and/or Vitamin B12 deficient in the beginning. It is important for us to have our Vitamin D levels and our thyroid function monitored. There is emerging information on the role of altered gut flora (bacteria) in inflammation of the digestive system, so you may want to consider a probiotic as well (see my post on probiotics for more details).
11. Encourage your family members to get tested. First degree family members (parents, siblings, and children) have a 1 in 22 risk of also having Celiac Disease. Second degree family members (aunts, uncle, grandparents) have a 1 in 39 risk.
12. Expect a change in how you socialize. Gone are the days when you can freely eat and drink whatever you’d like at every party, potluck, wedding, etc. Some people will go out of their way to accommodate you, and others won’t. Some will care about your diagnosis, and others won’t (and it will be difficult to predict who will care and who won’t). You will feel “left out” at least some of the time. Get used to bringing your own food and snacks wherever you go. I always bring a GF item to every social gathering I attend, so that I am assured that there will be one food that is safe for me to eat.
13. Take care of your body. Run, walk, do yoga, meditate. Use your diagnosis as an opportunity to take charge not only of your diet, but your overall well-being. Once I was gluten free, I was able to run again after years of not having the endurance to run more than 2 miles.
14. Cry. Be angry. Complain. There will be good and bad days at first, but with time, the good days will outnumber the bad. It will get easier, I promise!
One of my favorite reminders to take care of myself: