Gluten-Free Lifestyle Support - Why it's important and ways to find it
Gluten-free lifestyle support is important. Whether you have non-celiac gluten sensitivity or you have been diagnosed with celiac disease (or another condition that requires living gluten-free), support is instrumental in staying sane.
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Why Support is so Important
A gluten-free lifestyle can be extremely isolating and restrictive.
In fact, studies show that sticking to a gluten-free diet (or living gluten-free) can feel more burdensome than lifestyle treatments for other common conditions. A gluten-free lifestyle can be so burdensome that researchers found that non-adherence can be a serious problem in those diagnosed with celiac disease.
Not following a gluten-free lifestyle when diagnosed with celiac disease can lead to a variety of very serious health complications.
These health complications include:
- chronic inflammation
- serious damage to the small intestine
- poor nutrient absorption
- increased risk of stomach cancer
- severe malnutrition
- not to mention other various digestive symptoms associated with celiac)
These health complications and the struggle many people living gluten-free face with staying gluten-free, are why support is so important.
Support can improve adherence rates of a gluten-free diet, overall feelings of burden, feelings of isolation, stress, etc. Support essentially can improve their overall quality of life. And we have research to support this. Studies show that when people are supported they are more likely to have higher quality of life scores.
Meaning, when you follow a gluten-free lifestyle, accessing and utilizing support is vital to improving your quality of life.
How to Find Support for Your Gluten-Free Lifestyle
Support is important for maintaining a gluten-free lifestyle successfully and happily but where can you find it? From online spaces to in-person, there are a variety of ways for people following a gluten-free lifestyle to find support. I’m going to share some resources below:
Online GF Lifestyle support
There are a variety of places and ways to seek support for your gluten-free lifestyle online.
- Email Lists: Joining a gluten-free email list that delivers gluten-free lifestyle bits of wisdom weekly can help support your efforts. It’s a less involved form of support but can be helpful none the less. Sign up for mine here.
- Pinterest: Pinterest can be a lifesaver when it comes to a gluten-free life. While not your conventional kind of support, gluten-free recipe boards, and Pinterest accounts can be so helpful for keeping you inspired with your gluten-free food and lifestyle. Follow me on pinterest @celiacdietitian
- Instagram: there’s a wonderful gluten-free community on Instagram. From travel to cooking, you can find an influencer to follow who will keep you inspired. Follow me @celiacdietitian
- Facebook Groups: I recommend Facebook groups with a strong urge of caution. They can be great to find support but they can also be breeding grounds for fear and misinformation. I’d suggest finding ones that are moderated by dietitians. You can join mine with this link.
- Youtube: like finding support in video format? There’s a small group of celiacs on youtube! Follow my youtube channel at Celiac Dietitian.
In-Person Gluten-Free Support
While online gluten-free support is important, nothing beats an in-person connection.
Finding people who are similar to you to meet-up with can be helpful not to mention makes socializing easier. Some general things I’d recommend:
- Checking MeetUp out for gluten-free groups around your area. If you can’t find either near you, consider starting one.
- If you’re in college, check to see if your campus has any gluten-free support clubs. If you can’t find either near you, consider starting one.
- Check facebook to see if there are any local state or city groups. (If you’re in Ohio, I’m a part of the Columbus and Central Ohio ones.)
- Seek support in loved-ones. Educate them and tell them that you need them in your corner.
- Build a celiac-specialized health care team to make sure your living the best gluten-free life you can.
- Join my virtual support group! We meet weekly via zoom and would love to have you join us!
Indirect Forms of Gluten-Free Support
Support doesn’t have to be as direct as joining a group and making friends with people who are also gluten-free. It can also come in indirect forms, such as boundaries, self-support, and more.
Some forms of indirect support to consider:
- Setting boundaries (more on this later)
- Beefing up your self-support (the support you offer yourself)
- Creating or downloading allergy cards to give to restaurant staff
- Sporting gluten-free merchandise to promote your needs
Set boundaries For Better Gluten-free support
Setting boundaries and having your loved ones respect them can be powerful. It shows that there is a mutual understanding of your needs and that can be helpful and beneficial.
Some boundaries you might consider setting:
- Ask that people not pressure you to eat food of any kind
- Make it known that you probably will always bring your own food (just in case)
- Ask for back-up when in tough social situations that press your boundaries
Hopefully this discussion on the importance of support for a gluten-free lifestyle and where to find it was helpful. Whatever form of support you use, remember, the more obvious you make your needs are the more people will remember them.
And remember, if you need more support, all gluten-free folk are welcome in my Virtual Celiac Support Group!