The Mindful Approach to Celiac Disease
Anyone who has Celiac Disease or has had the joy of going through the process of identifying which foods your body reacts to can relate to stress and grief that come along with the experience. I have heard time after time how exhausting and disheartening this new lifestyle can be, BUT I am here to tell you it does not have to be that way. In fact, the process can be enlightening, motivating, and transformational.
1. Educate yourself
This is probably the most important part of the process, but can also appear intimidating–I promise it’s easier than it appears! Educating yourself around your food sensitivities is empowering and allows you to feel more secure about your choices, creating an environment that feels safe, relaxed, and enjoyable.
When I was initially diagnosed 12 years ago, I knew little to no information around Celiac Disease or eating for a gluten free lifestyle. While there was some resources on the internet, there was much less awareness around being gluten free and fewer gluten free alternatives at your local stores. Now, you can easily browse the internet to find easy to understand information regarding eating gluten free or any other food sensitivities. Plus if you are on social media, there are tons of influencers and bloggers dedicated to allergy free lifestyles (oh hi that’s me!).
I give the foundations for eating gluten free in my post “Going Gluten Free: Should I Make the Switch?” In this post, I outline which grains contain gluten , where hidden sources of gluten are commonly found, and the easiest way to ensure you are avoiding all sources of gluten — eating mainly whole foods and plant-based.
A few other online sources for education I recommend are:
A few of my favorite bloggers/social media accounts are:
2. Practice mindfulness around food
There was a time where I became fearful around food. I had developed multiple other food sensitivities along with my Celiac diagnosis, and was having a difficult time navigating this new way of eating. I felt as though I was on high alert when it was time for a meal or a snack. This was extremely upsetting for me, because if you know me, I LOVE my food.
What I didn’t realize at the time was that my thoughts, worries, and fears were affecting my mental and emotional health, which ultimately put even more stress on my physical health. Stress is a huge contributor of inflammation in the body and has a negative impact on our immune systems.1,2,3 For example, when I am stressed, my eczema flares up. I had rashes on my scalp, ears, face, and arms when I was in my most stressful relationship with food. Stress also has a major impact on our digestion, often leading to nausea, cramps, indigestion, and constipation.2,4
But don’t get scared! If you can begin to invite mindfulness and other stress relieving techniques into your daily lives and meal time, you will greatly improve digestion, decrease inflammation, and create a healthy relationship with food. A few of my favorite tips for mindfulness:
- Eat slowly–chew thoroughly
- Take 3 deep breaths before you begin your meal
- Eat with your non-dominant hand– this will slow you down and force you to be more mindful
- Avoid distractions– limit TV and phone time during meals so you can focus on enjoying your food!
3. Advocate for your health needs
This has been a tough one for me, but it is important. Initially, I felt as though I was being “extra” or asking for too much when I needed to request a gluten free meal at a social gathering, double checking with a restaurant that my meal was in fact gluten free, or asking for my food to be taken back if I noticed there were croutons in my salad. Guess what? Your health is WAY more important than feeling like you are being a burden. And guess what else? You are NOT a burden. It has taken me time to realize that asking for what you need is not being extra, and advocating for your needs and your health is an act of self love. This one may take practice and time, but believe me, you deserve it!
4. Enlist a support system
My last tip for creating a peaceful relationship with your Celiac diagnosis or food sensitivities is all about support and this comes in different forms.
Family and friends
Sometimes people we are close to give us a hard time surrounding our lifestyle and that is normal. My best advice is to educate them on why you eat gluten free. If they can have a better understanding, they can better support you and even help advocate for you when you might forget to 🙂
Primary Care Physician/Specialist: This might seem obvious, but make sure you feel supported by your PCP. If you feel like your PCP does not have a good understanding of your medical needs or does not take the time to answer your questions, find one that will listen or ask for a referral to a specialist.
Therapy: Having a chronic condition like Celiac Disease can be stressful and overwhelming at times. If you are feeling anxious, overwhelmed, or nervous, enlisting a therapist to your team of health care providers can be one of the most helpful tools. If therapy is not an option due to cost, check out Open Path Collective. They have a wide range of therapists who charge on a sliding scale ($30-$60/session).
Health Coach/Nutritionist: If you are needing more help with what to eat or how to stick with a gluten free lifestyle, enlisting a health coach or nutritionist can be invaluable. There is an amazing, new coaching company called Flourish, that is made for women, by women and focuses on a non-diet approach to well-being. You sign up for their waitlist here.