Tip number 1 is probably the hardest but most important. Don’t accept anything but support.
Only Accept Support
This is something that can be difficult. Especially if you have close family and friends who just don’t seem to get it.
Honestly, if they cared, they’d get with the program.
I’m not talking about the people who mean well but accidentally slip up. I’m talking about the people who introduce you as “one of those gluten-free people” or who don’t apologize when they accidentally serve you non-gluten-free food.
When even the smallest crumb can determine if you’re going to be a slave to the porcelain throne for the next few days, you have to take things seriously.
Now sometimes you need to “earn” support. Despite having a pretty serious diagnosis behind you, sometimes people need convincing of how real this disease is.
My top convincing statements:
- My body literally attacks itself when I eat gluten
- I’m at higher risk for stomach cancer when I eat gluten
- I’m at higher risk for osteoporosis
- I’m sick for days after eating gluten
Try anything that conveys the severity.
If they still don’t get it, distance is your friend and when you do run into these people, make it clear whenever possible that this is not just some fad diet you’re following for a few months, this is for life.
While support is vital to managing relationships with Celiac Disease, you can’t just expect everyone to learn about your condition themselves.
Celiac disease is tricky, and you can share as much or as little as you want with people. It’s important, however, that people understand that this condition is a lifelong condition. This means you aren’t going gluten-free temporarily. This diet is for life.
Basically, managing your relationships with Celiac means everyone including yourself being fully aware of what this condition entails.
Don’t be Afraid to Ask for Help
Being gluten-free with Celiac Disease can be exhausting. Watching for ways people can contaminate your things and food (like when your friend eats a sandwich and then grabs your notes) is time-consuming and energy draining. I swear I wash my hands almost every hour out of fear.
Being aware and advocating for yourself can be overwhelming so don’t be afraid to ask for help.
Personally, I ask my friends to act as buffers for me when I order at restaurants like Chipotle. I know I am the most unpopular person in the building when I ask the line to change their gloves and serving utensils in support of my allergy. Having people in front and behind you to prevent hearing what people are saying under their breath can be the world of difference. Even just knowing you have 2 people in the building who support this whole effort is helpful.
I’ve also had friends ask for their meals to be served separately from mine to prevent the potential of cross-contamination when delivering plates.
Get creative and let your friends and family be allies.
Make it easy for people to support you by laying out your needs for them. Whether it’s your friends, family, or significant other, be clear on what it is that you need from them.
My friend’s, for instance, know that I get severely ill when I eat gluten, so they are all aware that if we go out for dinner, we have to go somewhere I can eat.
My boyfriend, on the other hand, knows that if we want to share a kiss, he needs to brush his teeth and rinse with mouthwash in order not to transfer gluten to my mouth.
You might need your partner to be gluten-free around you, or be gluten-free in the house. Whatever you need, make sure you are clear on those needs and the consequences if those needs aren’t met.
For instance, my boyfriend knows if he doesn’t brush his teeth and rinse with mouthwash, I will break out in a horrible rash and feel sick. Who wants to be the cause of their loved one getting sick? Not a partner worth any of your time.
Know Your Worth
Friendships, family, significant others, all of these relationships can be tough to maintain. For a long time, I used to think no one would want to date me.
Comments like “you’re special” and “wow, that’s a lot” plagued my social circle for a long time. People used to say that it was a sacrifice dating me, but despite my Celiac Disease, I grew to practice self-love and compassion. I grew to understand I am worthy.
I am worthy of respect, effort, and consideration, and so are you.
The world is a dangerous place for Celiacs, dramatic but true. I don’t need anyone who isn’t on my side traveling it with me.
Written by Tayler Silfverduk. She is a Dietetic Technician Registered (DTR) with Celiac Disease. She’s been living with Celiac Disease since high school and it is her mission to help other thrive on a gluten-free diet.