The positive of this diagnosis is that it’s not a pill you are chained to for life. Which at first seemed better. “I can control this myself.” But there are days when every single meal, every single thing you touch or place in your mouth causes anxiety and I wish for that pill instead. It’s tough. There are days when I don’t want the choice. I just want to eat safe and not feel sick. It’s a daily struggle even after years of experience. Here’s how you, the loved one of someone with celiac disease, can help. Guess what? We need it!
The anxiety that goes along with being an individual with celiac disease is significant, a recent study published in the World Journal of Gastroenterology showed that 17% of females with celiac disease have anxiety disorder, compared to 6% of the general population.
Your loved one may be struggling with social anxiety, depression, and an overall feeling of missing out on life. Try to listen to their needs and accommodate their desires. If dining out isn’t in their best interest try not to put them in that situation. Allow your loved one to make their decisions for their health and make your plans accordingly. Don’t exclude the person from plans because they can’t participate, always allow them make that choice.
- Offer to pick up a safe gluten-free meal from the grocery store to give them a break from cooking.
- Invite them to social events that don’t involve food. Take them to a movie, go shopping, catch a ballgame or play a sport like tennis or golf.
- Set up a gluten-free zone at your next event – inform everyone not to bring gluten nearby!
- If you are dining out with your loved one make sure to support them while they discuss their dietary needs with the manager or server. Tell them you are proud of them for taking their health seriously and handling it well.
Understand the risks
- Know that someone with celiac disease needs to eat first from a buffet line that has contamination possibilities, always.
- Know that they can’t eat gluten-free food that has already been opened. Know that 1/16th of a crumb is all it takes to make them sick, for weeks.
- Know that making a special gluten-free area for dining and snacking safely will always be appreciated as long as everyone knows to keep the gluten safely distanced.
- Know that flour can be airborne – for hours. Know that cross-contamination is real and hard to avoid without constant consideration while cooking.
Offer but don’t be offended
So you did your best to make something gluten-free for your loved one, a baked good, a meal, a drink. You offer the item and they politely decline. Frustrating? Yes. Let’s consider the possible problems.
- You may have baked your muffins in a pan you just used for glutinous cupcakes days before.
- You perhaps made your pad thai sauce with gluten-free soy sauce but you used peanut butter from a jar you double dip into for peanut butter sandwiches.
- You made a mojito with rum, lime, sugar and mint. You cut the lime on the same wooden cutting board you cut bread on the day before and used sugar that could be contaminated with a flour-covered measuring cup.
- These are all potential contamination risks.
Your loved one is assessing their risk. Is it worth the risk involved? It may depend on their current health. Are they feeling well? Maybe they were exposed to something in the days prior and aren’t willing to take the risk. Perhaps they are traveling soon and need to be sure to avoid all risk. The bottom line is you can’t always predict how your loved one will be feeling. They may be willing to take the risk one time but not the next. This can be confusing and frustrating to those trying to accommodate. But do know that offers are always appreciated and that it’s best to not be personally offended if they are politely declined.