If you’ve recently been diagnosed with celiac disease, you might be overwhelmed by the changes to your diet and lifestyle. Cutting any ingredient out of your diet is difficult, and understanding where to start can be tricky.
At the Rivas Digestive Center in Hollywood, Florida, board-certified gastroenterologist John M. Rivas, MD, is here to help patients with celiac disease. From diagnosis to ongoing support, Dr. Rivas has years of experience helping patients adjust to their new, gluten-free lifestyle.
We’ve gathered our top tips to help you feel confident about your diet and lifestyle choices. Keep reading for the information you need to live your best life with celiac disease.
Tip #1: Understand how celiac disease works
This genetic autoimmune disease affects about 1% or 3 million Americans. If you have celiac disease and consume gluten, a protein found in wheat, rye, barley, and triticale, it damages the villi in your small intestines.
Villi are projections lining this part of your body. They resemble tiny fingers and help you absorb nutrients. When damaged, they can’t take in essential nutrients from your food.
This leads to malnourishment and other health issues, like anemia, thyroid disease, osteoporosis, body-wide inflammation, infertility, other autoimmune diseases, and some cancers.
Understanding the ins and outs of celiac disease and how this condition affects you is key to adjusting to life after diagnosis and helps you avoid the triggers that can make you sick. The National Celiac Association and Beyond Celiac are great places to start researching your condition.
Tip #2: Learn which ingredients mean (or hide) gluten
You’ll need to switch to a gluten-free diet after being diagnosed with celiac disease. This can be a big change, and even small mistakes can cause pain and discomfort. Identifying ingredients containing gluten is key.
Ingredients lists will become your best friend, since they let you know exactly what’s in each product you buy. You’ll quickly get comfortable spotting gluten-containing ingredients. Big ones to look out for include:
- Brewer’s yeast
However, it’s also important to be aware of hidden gluten. For example, bottled soy sauces often use wheat as a binder. Keep an eye out for:
- All forms of malt and malt variations
- Binders and extenders
- Hydrolyzed vegetable protein (HVP)
- Hydrolyzed plant protein (HPP)
- Modified food starch
Oats may also contain gluten since they can be processed in the same factories as wheat. Look for oats labeled “gluten-free.” Fortunately, many local super markets now carry gluten-free alternatives, making life with celiac disease easier.
And be sure to talk to your pharmacist or Dr. Rivas about medications that may contain gluten.
Tip #3: Educate your family and friends
Getting your family and friends educated about celiac disease is an important step in avoiding “glutamination”, or cross-contamination with gluten, which can be dangerous to your health.
Being gluten-free for celiac disease isn’t a choice—it’s essential for your health. You can bring this up to family and friends having an open conversation about what the condition means or sharing gluten-free.
Though you may find some people are skeptical at first, your loved ones will be happy to find ways to share meals together that ensure your health and happiness.
Tip #4: Be careful when eating out
Eating out can be especially tricky with a gluten-free diet. This is because depending on how the food is prepared, even naturally gluten-free foods can get “contaminated” with gluten.
For example, potatoes are gluten free. If they’re fried in the same deep fryer as breaded chicken, however, they’re no longer gluten-free.
Fortunately, many restaurants are now more aware and understanding about celiac disease. Get comfortable speaking to your waiter or chef about the ingredients, food preparations, and making special requests.
Tip #5: Work with a celiac expert
Understanding your disease is the most important in avoiding getting sick. Working with a celiac like Dr. Rivas helps make those lifestyle changes that accommodate your gluten-free life and educating the people around you easier.
When you meet with Dr. Rivas, he provides you with answers to questions and concerns and passes on educational resources you can share with family and friends. He can also keep an eye on your health and explain related issues that might arise.
If you’re ready to learn more about celiac disease, don’t hesitate to set up a consultation with Dr. Rivas! Schedule an appointment online or over the phone at Rivas Digestive Center in Hollywood, Florida, today.