How to Cope with Celiac Disease
By: Dr. Layla Agha
Coping with any health problem is hard. When it comes to digestive disorders like celiac disease, the uncomfortable symptoms are often accompanied by additional health issues. Whether you are experiencing celiac disease, or one of your loved ones, let’s take a closer look at this disease and how to cope with it.
What is Celiac Disease?
Celiac disease is a serious autoimmune disorder where the consumption of gluten leads to an immune response that attacks the small intestine. Any foods containing gluten, such as wheat, rye and barley, should be avoided at all cost. Even a tiny amount will trigger an immune reaction and symptoms such as diarrhea, vomiting and bloating among others. This can cause embarrassment and some patients choose to isolate themselves from social life.
Celiac Disease Symptoms
The damage celiac disease causes to the digestive system leads to malabsorption of nutrients, and acute vitamin and mineral deficiency, specifically vitamins D and B, zinc, iron and calcium. Left untreated, celiac disease can cause:
- Asthenia (general fatigue)
- Trouble concentrating
- Brain fog
- Digestive issues
- Loss of appetite
- Depression and mood swings
- Pancreatic issues
- Insomnia or disrupted sleep
- Weight loss
- Gall bladder malfunction
- Iron deficiency anemia
Helping a Person with Celiac Disease
It is important that you communicate your condition to your family and loved ones, and even some of your work colleagues. This will help them to understand your dietary requirements and what might happen should you eat any food containing gluten.
If your friend or relative suffers from celiac disease, here are a few things to help you help them:
- Do not show expression of disgust—this can be hurtful.
- Quickly offer a chair to sit on.
- Soothe the pain with calming words.
- Participate in preparing and eating gluten free meals.
- Encourage them to make delicious recipes from gluten-free ingredients.
- Provide support by listening and offering distractions.
- Stay positive.
- Remind them of any medications or vitamin and mineral supplements, if appropriate.
- Read nutritional labels and make sure the food is free of gluten and additives (like caramel E150, A, B, C, D).
- Inviting them to social events, even if they repeatedly reject the idea.
- Remember that an illness doesn’t define a person. Be mindful to be kind without being overbearing or patronizing.
Celiac Disease and Diabetes
Because celiac disease is an autoimmune condition, those suffering from it are at risk of developing other autoimmune disorders such as Type 1 Diabetes. What’s more, celiac disease is more common in those who suffer from other autoimmune conditions including Type 1 Diabetes, arthritis, thyroid disease and multiple sclerosis.
According to the Celiac Support Association, the link between Type 1 Diabetes and celiac disease is well established. Both are triggered by environmental factors and share similar symptoms. Type 1 Diabetes is caused by an autoimmune reaction that causes the body to attack the pancreatic cells responsible for insulin secretion. This in turn means the body is unable to absorb glucose or metabolize food properly. If you are concerned about your state of health, or think you may be at risk, it is important that you speak to your doctor and get diagnosed. The sooner you know, the sooner you can begin to protect your health.
Overcoming Celiac Disease
The only treatment for celiac disease is the complete avoidance of gluten. There is a silver lining: if you suffer from this condition, you can still live a full, active, comfortable life as long as you avoid all foods containing gluten and favor a diet full of wholesome, natural, unprocessed foods. And if you can add some gentle exercise to your daily routine, this will strengthen your immune system and help you gain optimal health.
The best solution to cope with celiac disease is to get advice from a specialized doctor, therapeutic dietitian or health coach. It is also a good idea to involve your friends and family—it’s easier to overcome a health condition when you have a good support network around you. Remember: it is possible to overcome celiac disease and life a full, happy, healthy life.References