For me, this was the hardest page to write, mostly because I know where you are coming from. As I explain in my story, I spent roughly fifteen years cheating on the gluten-free diet. Although I was diagnosed with celiac disease as a baby, I ate whatever I wanted from the time I started school until I got very, very ill in my early twenties. For roughly the last ten years, however, I have been 100% gluten-free. If you can take anything from this blog, remember this: If you have celiac disease, staying 100% gluten-free is worth every sacrifice. No matter how it seems now, in the end, it will be an enormous blessing.
Four reasons to go 100% gluten-free:
- You will feel better. For most celiacs, a strict, 100% gluten-free diet eliminates most or all of their symptoms. Read more about symptoms of celiac disease from Celiac Central or NDDIC. You may be surprised what is included on the lists!
- You will avoid further damage to your intestine. According to The National Foundation for Celiac Disease Awareness (NFCA), "Eating gluten, no matter how small the amount, can damage the intestine," even if you don't feel sick (source article). This means each bite of gluten-containing bread or pasta you take is actually weakening your body.
- Your body will begin to heal. For most celiacs, the damage done by ingesting gluten is not permanent. Once you are on a 100% gluten-free diet, your body should start the natural healing process. For children, this may take just a few months; for adults, it may be a few years. Either way, a healed intestine leads to healthier villi and better absorption of nutrients. (NDDIC: Celiac Disease)
- You will reduce the likelihood of developing celiac-disease related complications in the future. Untreated celiac disease can lead to serious complications above and beyond the various symptoms you may already be experiencing. These complications include malnutrition, loss of calcium and bone density, lactose intolerance, certain types of cancer, and neurological complications. Such complications may arise with or without any noticeable digestive symptoms, but staying on a strict, 100% gluten-free diet greatly reduces your susceptibility to them. (The Mayo Clinic)
Not convinced? Check out my story to learn about my journey to gluten-free and what I learned along the way.
Some points to remember:
- It won't be easy. To be gluten-free, you are going to have to make sacrifices: time, money, and sadly, food. You may no longer be able to eat your favorite dessert, or you may have to learn to cook when you would rather just throw something in the microwave.
- It may take time. Many people who have celiac disease immediately notice a significant improvement in their health, while others have to wait a few weeks or even months before they start to see a positive change. On top of that, you may run into obstacles while you are learning about the disease and adjusting to a new diet. Stick with it. Be patient with yourself, your body, and the gluten-free diet. If you fall off of the horse, get back on.
- But it gets better. Celiac disease and the gluten-free diet can sometimes seem like purgatory. However, the longer you are on the diet, the better you will feel, and the more you will know about your favorite gluten-free products, menu options, and recipes.
- And you are not alone. If you feel like you are struggling, find a support system. It may be a friend or coworker with celiac disease, a local celiac disease support group, or a celiac-disease blog like this one. Regardless, find a place you can vent your frustrations and share your triumphs. If it weren't for my gluten-free friends, I would probably live off of rice milk and Chex cereal.
Looking for more advice on how to get started? Check out the general tips I provided on my newly diagnosed, grocery shopping, and wining & dining pages.