Self-Care and Celiac Disease - Why It's Important + 15 ways to Practice it
Self-care and celiac disease go hand in hand. While self-care is important all of the time, it’s especially important with autoimmune disease like celiac.
Below we will talk about why self-care is important with celiac disease and how to practice it.
What is Celiac
Celiac disease is an autoimmune disease that impacts the digestive track. Basically, when you have celiac disease your body attacks itself when you eat food that contain gluten. This causes damage to the small intestine that can lead to malabsorption, nutrient deficiencies, stomach cancer, and more.
There is also a condition called non-celiac gluten sensitivity. This means that someone does not have celiac disease but they are still sensitive to gluten. Often symptoms of celiac disease and non-celiac gluten sensitivity can look like each other which is why it’s important to rule out celiac disease with testing.
Either way, a gluten-free lifestyle is restrictive. Whether you are gluten-free because of celiac disease or because of non-celiac gluten sensitivity, self-care is important to maintaining a healthy gluten-free lifestyle.
What is Self-Care
Self-care is the process of taking care of yourself. It’s not rocket science, it’s just simply making time for you.
Self-care is a positive approach to coping with events and life. This can apply to both physical and mental health and can include activities that help you cope and relieve symptoms of different medical conditions.
Whether it be work, friends, family, your home, etc. it’s hard to take care of these things when we are lacking in the self-care department. You can’t pour from a glass that’s empty.
Why Self-Care is Important When you have Celiac Disease
While self-care is important always, no matter what, it’s especially vital when you’re following a restrictive lifestyle, like the gluten-free lifestyle. It can help you cope with feelings of isolation. It can help you cope with feeling misunderstood, unsupported, frustrated, lonely, hangry, and sick.
Let’s be real, it sucks having a disease that impacts our entire life. 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.
It can get lonely, frustrating, and just downright exhausting. Constantly having to think 10x harder about going to lunch with friends or attending a holiday party is taxing.
This is why you have to make sure that you are taking care of you, first and foremost, so that you can advocate for yourself fearlessly and effortlessly.
Signs You're Neglecting Self-Care
As hard as self-care is, it is so important. If you aren’t taking care of your needs then it can be hard to do thrive with celiac disease. Signs you’re neglecting self-care include:
- Difficulty staying calm in stressful food situations
- Making safe decisions around food is hard
- Overthinking your food choices
- You’re not feeling better after eating gluten-free for celiac.
- Experiencing frequent indigestion (if you are so burnt out and not resting – your body can go into survival mode and diverts blood flow and energy from your digestive system to your extremities for survival and defense)
How to Practice Self-Care With Celiac Disease
First of all, let me say, I get it. Self-care is hard. It’s hard to love yourself when it feels like your body has betrayed you. How dare it request that you remove what feels like an entire, tasty, delicious, food group.
So I won’t sit here and pretend like self-care will be an easy habit you’ll be able to just pick up at the drop of a hat. No, it will likely be hard to make the time and to find practices that help you. Despite this, much like switching to a gluten-free diet was hard but necessary, so is practicing self-care.
Self-care, when you have celiac disease, can involve developing habits that help prevent gluten exposure. Alternatively, it can involve creating a plan for how you will let yourself recover after gluten exposure.
Celiac Disease Self-Care Practices
- Journal your way to better gluten-free living with my Celiac Disease Wellness Journal
- Be forgiving – your cousin didn’t mean to gluten you
- Have self-compassion – you are only human.
- Be grateful – your friends don’t have to support you
- Advocate for yourself relentlessly – no one else is going to do it for you
- Give yourself permission to say “no” to social invites – it’s for your own sanity
- Embrace “JOMO” – the joy of missing out can mean the joy of zero gluten exposure and zero stress
- Only accept support – surround yourself with people who understand and will help advocate for you
- Join a support group – it can feel amazing venting to people who just get it (click here to join my dietitian-led virtual support group)
- Develop a self-care plan – for the week, month year, and for when you’re sick, exposure to gluten, or feeling unmotivated
- Meal-prep – take the stress out of figuring out safe foods to eat by preparing ahead of time
- Hire a gluten-free dietitian – this is totally shameless self-promotion right here, but hi! My name is Tayler Silfverduk, let me help!
- Eat more fruits and vegetables – nourish and health that gut
- Start a food journal – keep track of foods that might be additional triggers for you. Are you sensitive to cross-reactive foods? Specific brands? Can you tolerate food processed on the same equipment? What about the same facility?
- Set, Communicate, and Uphold Boundaries – keep yourself safe and create peace of mind by letting people know what you expect so that you can stay safe
- Eat Mindfully – eating mindfully can help you hone into your intuitive eating skills and potentially help you eat even more safely
- Treat yourself after a stressful food event – for example, if you’re going to a party or restaurant with friends, have something you can do to take care of yourself after.
Want more guidance? I developed a self-care planner specifically for people with celiac disease! Click the link below to grab YOUR copy!