The psychological aspects of coeliac disease are not often talked about. Keeping to a gluten-free diet requires a sustained amount of effort both from yourself and those closest to you which can be stressful.
Food is much more than a biological requirement. It is a major part of our culture and social lives. Changing the nature of your diet, particularly if it’s not voluntary can have an impact on your social life. Eating out and travelling can be difficult so we’ve provided some advice to deal with these challenges.
Remember, a problem shared is a problem halved, so join the society to get the support you need from fellow coeliacs. Most coeliacs will experience the following thoughts and emotions at some time:
- Denial of the fact that you have coeliac disease,
- Repressing the feelings of difficulty of being coeliac,
- Difficulty in accepting possible physical side effects of the gluten-free diet,
- Seeing yourself as a burden to your family and friends,
- Irritation by having to single yourself out in restaurants and social gatherings
Denial of the fact that you have coeliac disease.
Once you’ve been diagnosed using the results from a biopsy it is clear that you have coeliac disease. Now it’s important to get onto your gluten-free diet immediately to reap the health benefits. As soon as you begin feeling better you’ll feel motivated to maintain your new diet.
A feeling of being coeliac as a problem to be repressed
Trying to convince yourself that you should be able to adjust to your new lifestyle immediately is not realistic. It is important to acknowledge the negative emotions and find ways of dealing with them. Joining a local support group or speaking to a member of The Coeliac Society helpline team can help. Call 01 8721471 for information.
Difficulty in accepting possible physical side effects (e.g. weight gain) as a result of the gluten-free diet
Get advice from your dietitian on how to avoid gaining weight or how to lose weight safely. Many members also find slimming clubs useful in tackling extra weight. You can find a registered dietician in your area at www.indi.ie.
Seeing yourself as a burden to your family and friends.
You may be surprised by how resourceful and supportive they can be. The Society provides resources to help your friends get the information they need to support you. See our tips on ‘Having a Coeliac to Visit‘.
Being irritated by the fact that you have to single yourself out in restaurants and social gatherings.
After a bit of research and with some advance planning this will become less troublesome. You may worry that those preparing your food will not take the care required to produce a gluten-free meal.
Remember most restaurants are now used to serving diners with allergies. You should feel confident in asking questions about the ingredients or cooking processes of certain meals. Similarly if you have been invited to dinner at a friend/family’s home, a quick call beforehand can alleviate concerns on both sides.
If you are ill after eating a food labelled gluten-free or a meal at a restaurant you should contact The Food Safety Authority. See details here.
Do your best to avoid gluten mistakes.We’ve got some advice if you find gluten is getting into your diet by accident.
Most importantly do not allow your coeliac disease diagnosis prevent you from living your normal life. The Coeliac Society is here to support you in your journey. Click here for just some of the benefits of membership.