Celiac Disease: Self-Care and Tips for Management

by | May 14, 2024 | Gut health | 0 comments

If you’re living with celiac disease, you’ve probably experienced some of the challenges that accompany managing a chronic disease. From that time you accidentally ate gluten to travelling and eating out gluten-free, living with celiac disease can be frustrating. However, with the right celiac disease self-care strategies and management tips, you can live a fulfilling and healthy life with celiac disease.

Whether you’re newly diagnosed or have been managing celiac disease for years, this blog post aims to provide you with practical advice and support to navigate the ins and outs of celiac disease self-care.

Understanding Celiac Disease

Celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder triggered when a susceptible person consumes gluten, a protein found in wheat, rye, barley, and triticale. When people with celiac disease consume food containing gluten, their immune system responds by damaging the small intestine.

This reaction to gluten can cause a range of symptoms, including:

  • Bloating
  • Diarrhea
  • Constipation
  • Gas
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Abdominal pain
  • Fatigue
  • Skin rashes

Celiac vs. Wheat Intolerance

When it comes to celiac vs. wheat intolerance or gluten sensitivity, the main difference lies in whether there is damage to the small intestine. While wheat intolerance or gluten sensitivity can cause many of the same symptoms of celiac disease, such as digestive issues and fatigue, they do not damage the small intestine.

To learn more about celiac vs. wheat intolerance, check out my blog post about the differences between the two conditions.

Celiac vs. Wheat Allergy

The difference between celiac vs. wheat allergy lies in the symptoms you get from exposure. While both conditions involve the immune system, wheat allergy can lead to symptoms like itchy eyes or difficulty breathing. Wheat allergies do not damage the small intestine like celiac disease does.

Diagnosis and Treatment

Diagnosing celiac disease typically involves a combination of blood tests and a biopsy of the small intestine. Once diagnosed, the primary treatment for celiac disease is a strict gluten-free diet. This means avoiding all sources of gluten, including:

  • Bread
  • Pasta
  • Baked goods
  • Processed foods containing gluten
  • Any products made with wheat, rye, barley, or triticale

Following a gluten-free diet can sometimes lead to nutritional deficiencies, as certain vitamins and minerals are less abundant in gluten-free foods. It’s important to prioritize nutrient-rich foods such as fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and gluten-free whole grains like quinoa and brown rice.

Working with a celiac dietitian, especially if you’ve just been diagnosed with celiac disease, can also be incredibly beneficial. They can teach you which foods are safe to eat on a gluten-free diet and provide you with tips for eating out and travelling with celiac disease.

Celiac Disease Self-Care Strategies

While following a strict gluten-free diet is the main treatment for celiac disease, it’s just as important to develop a celiac disease self-care plan to support living life with a chronic condition. Here are some components of a celiac disease self-care plan that you may want to include.

Incorporate Stress Management Techniques

Stress and psychological conditions like depression and anxiety in people with celiac disease are very common and can worsen celiac disease symptoms. It’s important to incorporate stress management techniques as part of your celiac disease self-care plan. Practices such as meditation, deep breathing exercises, yoga, and tai chi can help calm your mind, reduce tension in your body, and promote overall relaxation.

Get Quality Sleep

Another important aspect of celiac disease self-care is quality sleep. Quality sleep is essential for overall health and well-being, especially for those managing a chronic condition like celiac disease.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, most adults need between seven and nine hours of uninterrupted sleep each night to support immune function, brain health, and physical recovery.

Here are some tips for creating a relaxing bedtime routine:

  • Try to go to bed and wake up at the same time every day, even on weekends, to regulate your body’s internal clock.
  • Turn off electronic devices such as smartphones, tablets, and computers at least an hour before bedtime. The blue light emitted by screens can disrupt your body’s natural sleep-wake cycle.
  • Make your bedroom conducive to sleep by keeping it cool, dark, and quiet. Consider using blackout curtains or earplugs to block out distractions.
  • Engage in calming activities such as reading or taking a warm bath to relax before bed.
  • Avoid caffeine, alcohol, nicotine, and large, heavy meals in the hours leading up to bedtime, as these can interfere with sleep.

Seek Social Support

Living with celiac disease can sometimes feel isolating, so an important part of a celiac disease self-care plan involves cultivating social connections that can provide support and friendship.

Reach out to friends, family members, or celiac disease support groups who can understand your journey and offer encouragement and empathy. Sharing experiences, recipes, and coping strategies with others facing similar challenges can help you feel less alone and more empowered to manage your condition.

Not sure who to reach out to? Consider joining the Celiac Canada Facebook group or joining a local chapter and support group in your area.

Practice Self-Compassion

Practicing self-compassion while living with celiac disease is important for maintaining your emotional well-being and navigating the challenges that come with managing a chronic condition. Here are some tips to help you cultivate self-compassion as part of your celiac disease self-care plan.

  • Acknowledge Your Feelings: It’s normal to experience a range of emotions, including frustration, anger, sadness, or anxiety when living with celiac disease. Acknowledge and validate your feelings without judgment.
  • Practice Self-Acceptance. Acceptance is key to self-compassion. Recognize that celiac disease is a part of who you are but does not define you.
  • Be Kind to Yourself: Treat yourself with the same kindness and understanding you would offer to a loved one facing similar struggles. Practice positive self-talk and challenge negative self-beliefs with compassion and self-love.
  • Set Realistic Expectations: Be realistic about what you can and can’t control when it comes to managing celiac disease. While celiac disease may impose limitations, focus on the aspects of your life you can control, such as sticking to a gluten-free diet, prioritizing self-care, and seeking support when needed.

By practicing self-compassion, you can cultivate a greater sense of resilience, acceptance, and well-being in your journey with celiac disease. Remember, you are deserving of kindness and understanding, especially from yourself.

Have a Plan for If You Accidentally Ate Gluten

No matter how hard you try, there are going to be times where you accidentally ate gluten.  It’s important to have a self-care plan in place for if this happens. Here are a few strategies you may wish to include in an “I accidentally ate gluten” care plan:

  • Hydrate: Drink plenty of water to keep the digestive system moving properly.
  • Avoid Laxatives: While it may be tempting to try and “flush out” the gluten with laxatives, this can actually worsen symptoms and lead to dehydration.
  • Rest: Allow your body time to rest and recover. Listen to your body’s cues and avoid strenuous activity if you’re feeling unwell.
  • Use a Heating Pad: Consider using a heating pad to soothe abdominal pain resulting from accidental gluten exposure.

Remember, just because you accidentally ate gluten does not mean you’ve failed. It happens to everyone at some point, and it’s important to be gentle with yourself when it does.

Traveling and Eating Out with Celiac Disease

Travelling and eating out are an important part of living a normal life with celiac disease. However, they can present unique challenges for people living with celiac disease. With careful planning and preparation, it is possible to enjoy safe and stress-free travel and eating out experiences.

Here are a few tips for travelling and eating out with celiac disease:

  • Research gluten-free dining options at your destination.
  • Pack gluten-free snacks and emergency supplies.
  • Communicate your dietary needs to airlines, hotels, and restaurants. Some people find it beneficial to carry a card listing the foods they cannot eat so they can provide it to restaurant and hotel staff.

Final Thoughts

When you’re living with celiac disease, self-care and appropriate management strategies are vital to living well with the condition. By following a strict gluten-free diet, prioritizing your physical and emotional well-being, and seeking support from a celiac dietitian and loved ones, you can effectively manage celiac disease.

If you’ve recently been diagnosed with celiac disease and are looking for support on the gluten-free diet, consider booking a free 15-minute discovery call with Keren, a registered dietitian with experience working with people with celiac disease. Remember, you’re not alone on this journey—resources and support are available to help you every step of the way.

Get in touch with Keren and book a free 15-minute discovery call today!

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