Disclosure: This is not a compensated or sponsored post. I was provided the product for review purposes only. All opinions expressed here are my own.
When a member of my family was recently diagnosed with Celiac Disease. I was prompted to learn more about this illness and the ways that I can help her make the changes in her life that would let her live a happy and healthy life. I wanted to find out more so I reached out to my friend’s at Nature’s Path for some assistance. They allowed me to ask questions of registered dietician Desiree Nielsen and Registered Holistic nutritionist and Founder of NaturallySavvy.com, Andrea Donsky.
It’s not easy being diagnosed with celiac disease or learning you have gluten intolerance or sensitivity. You suddenly realize that gluten is in everything from your favorite childhood cereal to soy sauce, and your kitchen is a minefield of foods that will upset your stomach. When I first started eating gluten-free over a decade ago, it was a big shock to my system. I was in love with fresh bagels, hearty sandwiches, and pasta. I lived in a tiny dorm room that was stocked with college staples like ramen noodles and saltines. I couldn’t imagine how I’d suddenly stop eating all these foods I had loved for years, but I knew I had to choose health over comfort and start feeding my body what it needed to be strong.
Desiree Nielsen describes this disease in the following way.
Celiac disease is an auto-immune disease that is triggered by the ingestion of gluten; it is not a food intolerance or allergy. Even the tiniest crumb of gluten can keep the auto-immune reaction in play; which is why someone with celiac disease can’t share a toaster used for standard bread or have their gluten-free food deep-fried in the same oil as gluten-containing food.
Gluten intolerance is not an auto-immune disease but may share many of the symptoms – gut troubles and brain fog – with celiac disease. It is harder to diagnose but if all other diagnoses have been ruled out, and the elimination of gluten eliminates symptoms, then it is considered non-celiac gluten intolerance. There is still has some controversy regarding the origin of the intolerance; while some experts believe that it is the gluten initiating the symptoms, others feel that it might be the fructan component. Fructans are carbohydrate chains of fructose, which those with IBS often feel better eliminating.
Time was, we would expect someone with celiac disease to have the classic symptoms of diarrhea, gas, bloating and even weight loss but now, many have what we call ‘silent’ disease. Sometimes, it is fatigue and lethargy that leads to a diagnosis of anemia, then celiac disease. Or, chronic joint pain and brain fog.
Celiac disease is rare in that is it one of the only diseases that is exclusively managed by nutrition; however, that also means that a huge amount of change is necessary. We don’t often utilize a lot of mindfulness in food choice, being a new celiac means that suddenly, you have to put a lot of thought into every little thing you eat.
Luckily, these days there is a gluten-free alternative for almost every food imaginable; so, instead of having to avoid foods you simply have to do a bit more planning to ensure you can get your favourites.
No matter what the person’s age, there can be a lot of resistance and rebellion that can come up. When you are new to gluten-free, the most important thing is to be gentle with yourself. There will be challenges and it will take time for gluten-free to become habitual. And always have back up options for when you are out – sneak your favorite gluten-free treats into a movie theatre, for example!
Reading these words, will make you understand how this can be a shock to be diagnosed with this disease. However, going gluten-free is getting easier and there are tons of alternatives to bread, pasta, cookies, pretzels, and other favorites that typically contain gluten. For my clients, one of the scariest parts about gluten is that it’s hidden in loads of products you wouldn’t expect, such as malt vinegar, beer, couscous, breads, cereals, crackers, salad dressings, instant coffee, vitamins, mustard, chocolate, canned baked beans, boxed soups, and much more. It’s important to start closely reading labels and looking for foods that are certified gluten free by the company. It’s also important to buy organic so you can avoid toxins contribute to inflammation and poor gut health. You can tell if a product is organic, like all the Nature’s Path products, by looking for the green and white USDA certified organic seal on the packaging.
Gluten is lurking in so many foods it can be a real headache poring over labels reading every last ingredient. The best way to avoid gluten is to stick to naturally gluten-free whole foods such as lean proteins, healthy fats, and fresh or frozen fruits and vegetables as well as your favorite gluten-free boxed items like Nature’s Path Qi’a Oatmeal and Qi’a Cereal. For foods that do typically contain gluten such as bread and pasta, there are many gluten-free alternatives on the market. Experiment with different products like quinoa pasta, rice pasta, organic corn pasta, or bean pasta to find the ones you like best. There are also many gluten-free flours such as almond, buckwheat, coconut, and rice flour that you can use to make your favorite baked goods.
Nutritionist, Andrea Donsky talks about how you should talk to your child if they are diagnosed with celiac disease.
When a young person is diagnosed with celiac disease – or any other food intolerance – explaining why they can’t eat a certain food is important even if they don’t fully grasp the idea at the time. For example, I have two daughters with severe food intolerances. My older daughter who is 12, understands that if she eats a certain food, then she will become violently ill for 2-3 days following the ingestion. However, my 6-year-old still can’t process that correlation, and nor do I expect her to since she is still little. The way I approach it with her is talking to her and repeatedly explaining how a certain food group will make her feel if she eats it. I will also replace the food with an alternative that is safe for her to eat, and one that is similar to what the other kids are eating so she doesn’t feel left out or alienated (i.e. a cookie for a cookie). In addition, because she is still young I can still give her snacks to take to other people’s homes, or speak to her friends parents about the issue.
These days there are SO many companies who make delicious gluten free products. For example, Nature’s Path has a line of Certified Gluten Free organic products including cereal, waffles, hot oatmeal and bars. You can look for the “Certified Gluten Free” label on the front of the package to ensure you are indeed buying products free of this protein. Another brand of Certified Gluten Free products that I like are from San-J. They make a line of gluten free sauces and marinades, and organic tamari.
While it may seem at times that you are alone with this illness, you have to know that they are many out there that are suffering the same way you are, and the key is to find a support group that will help you to keep on track. It will not be easy, but you can do it.