It was five-years ago today that I was diagnosed with celiac disease.
Happy 5th celiac disease diagnosis anniversary to me.
I remember the day so clearly. I was sitting in my car and eating a six-inch turkey sub from Subway when I got the call.
“You have celiac disease,” my doctor told me.
At the time, I was scared – no, I was crushed – by those four words that changed the trajectory of my life forever.
Today, however, I truly believe those four words saved my life.
So today, on the fifth anniversary of being diagnosed with celiac disease, I want to share 15 bits of wisdom I would have told myself on that fateful day. (Here is more information about getting diagnosed with celiac disease.)
15 Things I’d Tell Myself After Being Diagnosed with Celiac Disease
1. Giving Up Gluten Will Take Strength and Willpower
I know that the idea of giving up gluten for the rest of your life is an overwhelming thought… however, know you can do it. You have the strength and willpower to do most things in like. There are much harder things in your life you will face than giving up gluten. So do it. And reap the rewards when you do.
2. Gluten is Addictive
You are going to have a hard time thinking straight in the weeks and months after getting diagnosed with celiac disease. Wheat is addictive, comes with awful withdrawal syndromes including overwhelming fatigue, brain fog, and even depression. Gluten is an addictive substance and it will take time for you to feel yourself again – but you will. (Read 10 Reasons Why You Still Crave Gluten and How I Overcame My Gluten Addiction.)
3. There’s No Magic Pill for Celiac Disease
There is no quick fix or magic pill to make celiac disease go away. When you are diagnosed with celiac disease, you will have it for the rest of your life. There is no cure for celiac disease.
Only by following a strict, life-long gluten-free diet will you be able to manage your symptoms related to celiac disease. As you’ll soon learn more about our world’s dependence on prescription medication, and how it’s doing much more harm than good, you’ll be happy your disease can be helped through a clean diet.
I like to think of it this way… if your grass dies, you don’t just paint it green and call it “cured.” This is what most people do when they take medications to treat chronic disease – they simply paint over their problems vs. address the root cause.
4. Don’t Listen to Gluten Bullies
There will be many people who make fun of your gluten-free diet. You know the ones – the late-night comedians or those so-called “friends” who order “extra gluten” when you go out to eat with them.
You’ll also hear passive aggressive comments like, “I’d love to eat there but we can’t because of Jenny.” These people have no idea how hurtful it is to make fun of someone because of their diet or disease. Remember, people who love you will never make fun of you or make you feel bad for being gluten-free (and taking control of your health!).
5. You’ll Make New Gluten-Free Friends
One of the best parts about being diagnosed with celiac disease is that you will find people who share your disease, diet and/or lifestyle. You will bond with new and old friends who intimately understand what you’re going through (because they go through it too). You also will learn who your true friends are – they are the ones who will go above and beyond to make you feel welcome at their gluten-free dinner table.
6. Giving Up Gluten is Really About Gaining Health
I know it’s hard to see now, but when you give up gluten, you’ll actually be gaining so much more… you’ll be gaining HEALTH. Health is everything. Without it you are but a shell of yourself. Your bloating, gas, skin conditions and other sources of inflammation can now be solved with a new diet – how amazing is that?!? This mindset shift is important to surviving and thriving on your new GF diet.
7. Gluten-Free Does Not Always Mean It’s Good For You
If you eat a lot of processed and packaged gluten-free foods, you’ll probably gain weight and stay unhealthy. Gluten-free packaged and processed foods, just like regular packaged and processed foods, are bad for you. Sugar is gluten-free. So are pork rinds and Lucky Charms. If you want to get healthy, you’re better off choosing naturally gluten-free foods – like whole grains, fruits and vegetables, seeds and nuts, and lean proteins. You’ll crowd out the bad stuff while healing your gut and whole body.
8. You Will Be Frustrated
Having a disease that is solely managed by food can be very frustrating, and there will be times when a night out on the town brings you to tears. I had a breakdown during my cruise vacation last fall, which you can read about in my Ultimate Gluten-Free Cruise Survival Guide. Traveling is hard, but you will adapt to any situation not because you have to, but because you are stronger than you think.
9. Read Labels to Uncover Hidden Gluten
You must learn how to read – or decode – food labels. You’ll not only learn about which products contain hidden gluten, but also you’ll learn just how compromised our food supply is these days. You’ll learn that the onion soup mix you’ve been feeding your family for years not only contains gluten but also MSG. You may not like what you learn, but you’ll be better off knowing that continuing to live in the dark.
10. Give Your Body a Chance to Heal from Celiac Disease
Your body knows how to heal, so give it a chance to do what it knows how to do. Removing gluten isn’t enough. You must limit other irritants, like sugar, white refined grains and dairy, and then add good stuff back in like green juices, seeds and nuts, and moderate gluten-free whole grains, if you want to truly heal. Here’s how I fixed my gluten-free diet and why I invest in caring for my gut.
11. People Have “Issues” Around Food
You’ll come to learn that people are extremely attached to food. When someone finds out you’re gluten-free, you’ll usually hear something like, “I could never give up gluten,” and they’re usually right. Most people lack the willpower to give up something they are emotionally and physically attached to even if they know it’s not doing them any favors to continue eating it.
Some people might even send you articles touting how gluten-free diets are bad for you, usually articles spun by people who have spent little time studying gluten-free diets. You’ll have to stay true to what you know and not let their issues with food bring you down.
12. Invest in True Health Care
You’ll quickly learn that investing in health care means spending more on where it counts – like spending money on clean, organic and whole foods. In contrast, sick care is spending your hard earned money on doctor’s visits, medication and procedures that could have been prevented if you had invested in health care.
Remember this mantra, “Pay now or pay later.” You can choose to spend your money now on healthy foods and a gym membership, or you can pay later in the form of costly doctor’s visits, medications and procedures.
13. Feel Lucky
Getting diagnosed with celiac disease is your body’s way of telling you something is desperately wrong and then showing you how to fix it. You are one of the lucky ones – you have the key to turning around your health for the better. Don’t let this information go to waste.
14. Embrace Change
You will embrace the change in your diet and even find your calling as an integrative health coach and gluten-free blogger. You will go through personal and professional transformations. You totally got this!
15. You’re Going to Be Just Fine
I know it seems like you have such a mountain to climb, but it really does get easier with time. Getting diagnosed with celiac disease gave you the most precious gift of all – the chance at good health and longevity (without years of potential mortality). Don’t waste it.