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When a person is officially diagnosed with Celiac disease, I am still surprised at how they cringe. As a fitness trainer, nutrition consultant and wellness coach I have the opportunity to speak with many people suffering from weight issues and medical issues. Upon referring certain clients to medical professionals for further testing, whenever Celiac is the culprit of the misdiagnosed ailments there is always a sense of dread rather than relief. This absolutely perplexes me, as I was misdiagnosed for only 6 months but when we finally got the proper testing done and Celiac was confirmed, I was overjoyed! All I could think of was that I was going to heal myself without medicine or surgery.
As time went on I learned that there are people with Celiac who would actually rather have a disease that could be managed with medications. Although very surprised by this, I wanted to know more. Why? What is so scary about this disease? Is it the possibility of developing esophageal cancer? Is it the difficulty of absorbing minerals and vitamins? Is it the rash? No. The number one fear is the inability to eat the foods they love.
While I can absolutely empathize with this struggle, I believe that the bigger issue is lack of information. Usually people fall into 1 of 3 categories:
Those who have no information on Celiac disease, or think it is a passing fad or “one of those food allergies”.
Those who have been exposed briefly to someone who has Celiac or have little information about Celiac.
Those who have Celiac or live with someone who has Celiac.
The first thing I make someone understand is that Celiac, while it is a complete lifestyle change, is not the end of good eating, dining out or even missing out on special events. In fact, it can be a blessing in disguise. Once a person truly understands the benefits of going gluten free, they tend to become much less fearful. I start with talking about the inflammatory property of gluten, explaining how people with arthritis, Crohns disease and lupus all benefit from a gluten free diet. Less inflammation in the body leads to a reduction in pain, a reduction in gastrointestinal symptoms and overall a generally healthier life. People who go gluten free sometimes report an increase in energy levels and better skin conditions. Many people who have been struggling with their weight despite their best efforts to exercise and eat properly, report a weight loss after going gluten free.
Celiac is controllable by what we eat. There are so many more options now than 7 years ago, when I was diagnosed. There are tasty gluten free breads, beers and baked goods. There are restaurants dedicated to gluten free eating and non-gluten free restaurants with a separate prep and fryer station in the kitchen area. There are many ways to survive Celiac healthily and happily. With the proper information, nutrition planning, fitness and medical care when necessary, Celiacs will live a normal lifestyle. Once on the road to healing, a Celiac usually ends up feeling better than they ever have.
Yes initially it can be confusing and frightening, being diagnosed with the disease that was barely on the radar 20 years ago. I can almost guarantee it is better than the alternative diagnosis you may have been looking at. Find a professional, a support group or ask your doctor to help get you started. There are many on-line resources you can turn to as well. Once you begin to understand what Celiac is, how it affects your body and mind and how you can treat yourself, you will see that surviving Celiac disease is not that hard after all.
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