celiac disease and safety
Living with celiac disease 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 and as a result, neglect other areas that play into safety with celiac.
Eating gluten-free isn’t the only way to keep yourself safe; it’s 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.
Defining Celiac Disease Safety
When you hear “celiac-safe”, what do you think of? I know a lot of people immediately think the food item is gluten-free with limited to zero risk of cross-contact. 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 something is gluten-free 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 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 and Celiac Safety
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, and they foster more helpful environments.
It’s important that here, you understand the difference between a boundary and restriction.
Boundaries are setting expectations and guidelines to help keep yourself 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, where 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, or avoiding food due to food allergies or intolerances) 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, where we 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.
Mental and Emotional Health And Celiac Safety
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.
Quality of Life with Celiac Disease
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 or 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, but when you let your gluten-free needs just simply stop you, 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 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, but again their is a difference between taking appropriate precautions and opting never to put yourself in a situation where a precaution is needed.
What does celiac safety mean for you?
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?