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Millions of Americans have cut the gluten out of their diet with hopes of gaining energy, shedding a few pounds or feeling healthier. However, while going gluten-free is sometimes voluntary, the lifestyle change is often necessary with celiac disease. By definition, celiac is an autoimmune disease that flares up after eating gluten. Consuming gluten causes the body’s immune system to attack the small intestine which results in the body not receiving certain vitamins and minerals.

After eating gluten, people with celiac disease often feel stomach pain, fatigue, gas or bloating lasting two to three days. Other serious health issues associated with celiac disease can include:

  • Malnutrition
  • Anemia
  • Depression
  • Infertility
  • Frequent headaches
  • Irritability

Since 83 percent of people with celiac disease are not diagnosed or may be misdiagnosed, it’s important to see a doctor if you or someone you know experiences any of the above symptoms after eating gluten. There is no doubt that living with celiac disease is a daily challenge. Gluten is everywhere. But these four tips can help you or a loved one better manage the condition.

Check food labels when possible

Avoiding gluten is the number one way to prevent a celiac outbreak. Some packaged food will be labeled “gluten-free,” while others may be labeled “wheat-free.” Keep in mind that “wheat-free” does not mean “gluten-free.” Always check packaged food labels and allergen listings to make sure the product is truly gluten-free. Key ingredients and allergens to avoid include:

  • Wheat
  • Barley
  • Rye
  • Malt
  • Brewer’s yeast
  • Oats

For more tips on reading food labels from a gluten perspective visit the Celiac Disease Foundation.

Consult a Registered Dietitian

By not eating gluten, your body can become deprived of important vitamins, minerals, and fiber. Meeting with a registered dietitian can help. They can set up a nutritional plan and educate and advise on how to follow a gluten-free diet. They may also monitor nutrition levels with frequent lab work. For members, use the Find a Doctor tool on our website to find a dietician. 

Join a support group

Learning from others is a great way to cope with and manage celiac disease. Members of support groups can share advice, recipes, gluten-free restaurant options, food tips and more. They can also foster a safe community to discuss the pros and cons of living with celiac. Celiac support groups meet in person and online. For a list of online support groups visit Beyond Celiac.  

 Learn as much as you can

Knowledge is power, especially when it comes to managing celiac disease. Take advantage of the resources at your fingertips.

Some examples are:

Find me Gluten Free: This is an app that lets you search for gluten-free products and explore restaurant menus. 

Top 10 Books Every Celiac Must Read: Learn more about the gluten-free lifestyle and help you find recipes.

The Celiac Project: This is a podcast hosted by Michael Frolichstein and Cam Weiner. They use the podcast to share their experiences with celiac and host guests who are well-known in the celiac community. Their channel currently has 86 episodes and counting!

While these tips can definitely help you or your loved one manage celiac disease, it’s important to create a plan suited for each individual. For more information on celiac disease visit the Celiac Disease Foundation or talk to your local doctor or physician. 

 

Brooke Findley, MS, RD, LDN

About Brooke Findley

Brooke Findley is a Registered Dietitian and the Client Wellness Program Manager at Blue Cross NC. She enjoys promoting health and wellness in communities and worksites, as well as helping individuals make health a part of their daily lives.

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