Living with celiac disease safety means you need to avoid gluten in order to protect the health of your small intestine. In this way, we have this idea that something is celiac-safe if it is gluten-free and meets our needs.
But safety with celiac disease goes beyond gluten-free food. It’s easy to get caught up in the gluten-free side of things. As a result, you might neglect other areas that play into safety with celiac.
Eating gluten-free isn’t the only way to keep yourself safe. Eating gluten-free is important and we shouldn’t let it define our safety entirely. There are a lot of other things that should be factored into celiac disease and safety levels.
When you hear “celiac-safe”, what do you think of? I know a lot of people immediately think the food item is gluten-free. Often times implying the food also has had zero cross-contact with gluten.
On the surface, this is appropriate, but I’d argue that “celiac-safe” can mean much more than that.
Often, people only factor in if the gluten-free status of food into the equation of celiac-safety, but what about our boundaries? What about our mental and emotional needs? What about our quality of life?
Ultimately, you’re not practicing a safe gluten-free lifestyle if it is at the expense of living your life. If it’s at the expense of never eating out, never attending parties, never traveling, or panicking at the sight of gluten. You can do all of these things and more with the proper precautions.
Boundaries are a huge part of celiac and safety. Your boundaries help you manage actions and interactions with others. They help you limit unhelpful situations to keep you safe. Additionally, they encourage supportive environments.
It’s important that here, you understand the difference between a boundary and restriction.
Boundaries are setting expectations and guidelines to keep you safe. Restrictions are simply not allowing something (ever).
For example, a boundary around dining out might be that you choose restaurants that have gluten-free menus and allergen protocols. Whereas, a restriction might be that you never dine out.
To recap: boundaries are guidelines set in place to maintain safety while leaving room to experience things, restrictions are never allowing those experiences. And while there are some instances of helpful restrictions, like not eating gluten for celiac. There are also times where restriction is more harmful than helpful.
And this applies far beyond just the concept of living with celiac. It applies to dieting and more. Which is why I take an intuitive eating approach with my clients.
I work with clients to remove all restrictions that aren’t medically necessary from your life in order to help you find a better relationship with food, your body, and your gluten-free life.
There’s a lot that goes into mental and emotional safety when it comes to celiac disease.
A gluten-free lifestyle has many mental health impacts like social isolation, stress, overwhelm, fatigue, depression and more (learn more about the mental health impacts of a gluten-free life here).
Which is why I think when we are considering safety with people with celiac, that emotional and mental health are both taken into account too.
A lot of things play into this, and paying attention to how your boundaries or restrictions are playing into not just your physical but also your mental health can be helpful.
Celiac disease and safety means not just taking into physical, mental, and emotional health into account but also just general overall quality of life.
If you feel like your gluten-free needs are paralyzing you. If you feel like celiac is holding you back from doing the things you want to do, you’re not living a safe celiac life.
Of course, it’s important to understand that there will be a level of burden with doing things. However, when you let your gluten-free needs just simply stop you from doing things, your quality of life is at stake.
At some point, your joy, your happiness, and your purpose need to be factored into the equation.
Now, I’m not saying it’s ever okay to intentionally put yourself in danger. Or put yourself in situations where you know you’ll be exposed to gluten. But, I do think there are times where level of risk should be compared to quality of life.
This is done on a situational basis. Again, there is a difference between taking appropriate precautions and avoidance.
I talked a lot about what should be considered with celiac-safety, but ultimately, you get to define safety for yourself. What do you think? Will you be inviting any of these things into your weighing the safety of situations?