Our Story With Celiac Disease
Sometimes life throws us a major curve-ball and wow did it throw us a tough one last year! In August 2019 my husband was diagnosed with Celiac Disease.
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He’s almost never sick but one day he developed a rash of blisters that we could not get rid of! So he saw a few different doctors who prescribed medication that didn’t help and one that actually made his condition worse!
Poor man, he went through four months of that and he was miserable, in pain, and frustrated, and I was miserable for him.
During the four months with no answers and no improvement in his condition, we searched endless medical articles for an answer. We also asked for advice from a family member who is a doctor.
Finally, we decided the rash seemed very similar to dermatitis herpetiformis which can be a sign of a few illnesses but the one his symptoms seemed to match was called Celiac Disease.
What Is Celiac Disease?
Celiac Disease is a life-long autoimmune disease which basically means when the wrong food enters the body of a Celiac the body’s immune system is triggered and it begins to attack itself.
From what we’d read we knew enough about the condition to know that we should be hoping and praying he didn’t have it, however, he needed to be tested before we jumped to any conclusions.
So I made an appointment for my husband with a dermatologist and off we went. The doctor told us that based on his symptoms and the rash it did look like celiac disease but that there was a chance it could be something else.
A week later we received the results – Positive – stop all gluten with immediate effect.
What did that mean?
Well, pasta and bread, right? Oh, and anything with flour, so most baked goodies?
Well, that’s what most people think but cutting out pasta, bread, flour, and cereals is just the tip of the iceberg when you have celiac disease.
My hubby is not the researching type but I am. So although I had already done a lot of reading after he was diagnosed I dug deeper to learn how to manage his condition.
I soon became completely overwhelmed as I realized just how big this was and yes, there were some tears!
So if this is you – hang in there – you can handle this and there are so many delicious things that you can eat! You’ll soon find the new diet second nature and you will feel so much better as your body begins to heal.
The Difference Between Gluten Intolerance And Celiac Disease
Both Celiac Disease and Gluten Intolerance are life-long conditions and need to taken be seriously.
Celiac Disease is an autoimmune disease which means that when a person with Celiac Disease eats gluten their immune system attacks their body and damages the lining of their small intestine.
Because our small intestines are responsible for absorbing nutrition the damage in the intestines of people with Celiac Disease prevents them from absorbing any healthy nutrients and so they suffer from malnutrition.
Due to the lack of nutrition, people with Celiac Disease, suffer from many symptoms such as:
- Weight loss
- Abdominal pains
There are also symptoms that you won’t normally connect to Celiac Disease and these are:
- Itchy skin (Dermatitis Herpetiformis – a rash of burning, itchy, blisters)
- Headaches and fatigue
- Bone and joint pain
- Acid re-flux and heartburn
- Mouth ulcers
The most serious problem with Celiac Disease is the long-term damage to the body, which if left untreated, can lead to other serious conditions. I know that sounds pretty scary but before you’re totally overwhelmed there is hope. Following a strict gluten-free diet can, in most cases, cause the symptoms to go away and the damage to the intestines to be reversed.
Gluten Intolerance has similar symptoms to Celiac Disease, however, the symptoms of Gluten Intolerance also known as, non-celiac gluten sensitivity, are usually only short-term. The symptoms include:
- Stomach ache
- Joint and muscle pain
First Steps To A Gluten-Free Lifestyle
1. Change your mindset – Focusing on what you can eat instead of what you can’t will help you cope.
It’s hard but you can do it and you’ll learn there are many great substitutes for most of your favorite foods. You probably won’t like all of them, but you will find some favorites
I’m happy to tell you pizza is still an option! Try this two-ingredient gluten-free dough. It’s perfect as a pizza base!
2. Do a kitchen clean, It’s scary how much you’ll be getting rid of but there is so much you can still use, so don’t freak out! Check all spices, sauces, soup packets, stock cubes, salt(stabilizers or starch can be wheat), pepper, herbs, jams, jellies, Soy Sauce, Worcestershire Sauce, coffee, tea, Nutella, instant custard (custard powder is normally fine, but still check it) and all condiments.
Also, read the labels on your vitamins and medicines (sometimes they contain wheat). You need to look at EVERYTHING and you might also need to replace pots, pans, chopping boards and cooking utensils. We didn’t but if your symptoms aren’t clearing after 6 months to a year you might be reacting to trace amounts of gluten hiding in your kitchenware.
By the way, it’s not worth using up something just because you bought it and telling yourself once it’s finished you won’t buy it again. It’s that much more damage to your body.
If in doubt, throw it out! (Or give it away).
Not Sure Which Ingredients Contain Gluten? Keep Reading For a List of Ingredients to avoid.
3. Question everything you eat and read every label – When shopping, read the ingredients label even when the item states that it’s gluten-free. Mistakes happen so check those labels! Don’t worry label-reading will soon become as natural as breathing for you.
4. Buy some small glass bottles – Fill them with your dried herbs, spices, salt, pepper, tomato sauce, mayonnaise, and anything else you like on your food and then take those with you when you’re traveling so you can enjoy cooking and eating safe meals anywhere you go.
What On Earth Can You Eat On A Celiac Diet?
Ok, so I’ve probably scared you into thinking you can only eat lettuce. Here’s the GOOD NEWS – There’s still so much you can eat! Here’s a list of gluten-free foods:
Unprocessed meat – chicken, fish, beef, pork, lamb (don’t buy shop marinated meat – bacon and biltong are usually not safe)
Nuts (not seasoned or salted, read the labels!)
Dairy – once your stomach has healed (healing time is different for everyone) and be careful to check as some dairy products like veined cheeses & cream cheese spreads contain gluten)
Rice – Always check the label. Rice is often cross-contaminated during packaging and production
Millet – this is often inexpensive and makes a delicious breakfast porridge
Cassava Flour – great for baking, I’ve shared some recipes below
Quinoa – It’s like rice and is delicious!
Gluten-Free Bread – You can buy it at some stores or make it at home (we buy a mix and do it at home)
Snickers Chocolate Bars – Most chocolates contain gluten so read those labels! (However, Snickers bars, depending on where they’re made, don’t). We love Snickers bars!
Because some manufacturers may use different ingredients don’t just buy Snickers based on what I’ve said. You still need to check!
Easy, Gluten-Free, Celiac Safe, Savory Recipes
- Beef and Butternut Squash Bake – All of the comfort none of the guilt, this oven dish is hassle free and so delicious!
- Savory Beef Mince Recipe – Try this tasty savory mince recipe and check out five easy meals you can serve with it.
- Garlic Butter Baby Potatoes – A delicious easy potato side dish to go with beef, chicken, lamb, pork, or even a fresh garden salad.
- 5-Ingredient Italian Pasta Sauce – One of the best sauces to put on pasta. Just add cheese and you have a delicious, easy, gluten-free meal in no time!
- Easy Chicken Dinner – Tasty, quick, and easy chicken dish. This chicken recipe is delicious, yet simple.
- Mini Crustless Quiches – Four Ingredients – Perfect for on the go and absolutely delicious!
- Ham And Cheese Pinwheels – Just four ingredients and so yummy, great as appetizers, easy and tasty.
- Love Chicken Satay? Try this Chicken Satay Skewer recipe. Tips on the easy way to prepare skewers.
- Two-Ingredient Gluten-Free Dough. Make delicious pizza bases and more with this super easy dough!
- Carrot, Sweetcorn, and Chickpea Salad – creamy, fresh, and nutty all in one!
- Gluten-Free Pancakes – Both Sweet & Savory Options Included In The Recipe – These are so delicious and the batter is freezable!
And for the Sweet Tooth – Gluten-Free Desserts, Snacks, and Breakfast Recipes
- 3-Ingredient Gluten-Free Chocolate Recipe – Melt-in-your-mouth gluten-free handmade chocolate is smooth and shiny with that wonderful taste of quality chocolate. This homemade chocolate recipe is quick, easy, and safe for celiacs and gluten intolerant people.
- Lemon Dessert – simple to make and tastes heavenly! This lemon pudding is the perfect mouth-watering combination of tangy and sweet. *gluten-free and normal options in post*
- Gluten-Free Cinnamon Crepes – A delicious, easy, and fun breakfast idea!
- Bliss Balls – Only Three-Ingredients – An awesome healthy snack and easy to make! They’re great to take to work or put in a kiddies lunch box.
- Gluten-Free, Super Easy Malva Pudding – one of the BEST desserts you will ever eat! Sticky, sweet, soft, and creamy! DIVINE!
- These Gluten-Free Brownies are amazing! All that fudginess, no butter, no chocolate chips, and gluten-free! Just seven ingredients!
- Easy Cassava Flour Cookies – Light, creamy, crumbly, and more-ish, everything a good cookie should be!
What To Do When Friends Or Family Invite You Over And Tell You They Can Cook.
When friends or family invite you over and tell you not to bring your own food don’t be afraid to be very clear about what they can and can’t use. Also, give them some of your salt and spices to use in the meal.
Your condition is serious and people are great, many make a sincere effort to understand even when they can’t relate. However, don’t go into detail. Your diet is normal for you but it’s ALL new to them so don’t overwhelm them!
Instead, ask if they had a meal in mind and give clear instructions as to how you would make it or mention a couple of easy meals they could make that follow your strict gluten-free diet.
If you think cooking for you will put pressure on them then it’s ok to offer to take food. It’s about the time you’re spending together not what you’re eating and you can even make the same meal they plan to serve so your food doesn’t look different.
Sometimes you won’t have to, but planning ahead helps to keep a positive mindset. So ALWAYS plan ahead! For every event, expect to take your own food.
Remember, it's not as complicated as it sounds and you can do it!
What To Cook And Freeze To Be Prepared For Any Occasion!
- Roasts (beef, ham, chicken)
- Tomato Pastes
- Pizza Bases – Try This Delicious, Two-Ingredient Gluten-Free Recipe
- Gluten-Free Pancake Batter
- Naan Bread
- Malva Pudding
Safe And Delicious Snacks For Celiacs
- Banana Chips
- Bliss Balls – Try this yummy three-ingredient recipe
- Rice Crackers – check they’re gluten-free and also read the ingredients
- Cashews – check the label and don’t buy flavored
- Fresh Fruit
- Homemade Popcorn
- Greek Yogurt with honey
- Cassava Cookies – easy to make, keep well, and are delicious!
- Hard-boiled Eggs
- Celery with gluten-free Peanut Butter
- Apples with gluten-free Peanut Butter
Always, always check the labels! One day I went into a store where we shop often and the owner, who also eats gluten-free, excitedly showed me some pre-made gluten-free lasagna just in from a new supplier.
Normally, I just cook at home so I know what ingredients are going into our food but sometimes it’s nice to have the option of a ready-made meal and the lasagna looked great so I picked one up. However, habit kicked in and I glanced over to check the ingredients.
The FIRST ingredient listed on this “gluten-free” pasta was wheat flour!
The store owner was shocked and contacted the supplier immediately to check if there was a mistake on the ingredients label or if they had in fact used wheat flour. So, ALWAYS check!
While I may write posts on the topic of “health” or “healing”, I am not a doctor and do not claim to be giving health or medical advice and any health or medically related articles found on this site are documentation of my personal experiences and not medical advice for you to follow.
Ingredients On Food Labels To Avoid
Gluten isn’t always obvious when reading a food label because they use words you probably haven’t heard before. You can always check on Google and if you’re still not sure DON’T RISK IT!
So here are some to look out for –
- Malt (Extract, Flavor, or Syrup)
- Brewer’s Yeast
- Khorasan wheat
- Wheat – berries/starch/Khorasan/Einkorn
- Stabilizers (sometimes stabilizers are corn starch which is safe but they could also be wheat)
For a more in-depth guide Google, “Gluten-Free Diet Food Label Reading Guide – Celiac Disease” It’s a great resource!
In Case You Skim Read Like Me, I’ve Recapped The Most Important Steps Here
1. Change your mindset. Remember to try and stay positive!
2. Clean out your kitchen to get rid of any hidden sources of gluten. Check everything!
3. Question everything you eat and read every label. Get used to reading labels and asking people to explain in detail what they put in the food.
4. Buy some small glass bottles for your herbs, spices, and sauces, so you can easily travel with them. It’s always good to have them with you, that way you will avoid bland food or accidentally eating gluten.
5. Don’t hide under a rock, you have to continue living. Sometimes a mistake will happen and you might somehow eat gluten but remember it’s not the end of the world and you can bounce back!
Always stay positive and try to see your condition as an opportunity that helped you change your eating habits for the better!
Of course, there will be days that will be hard and you’ll miss the foods you used to eat. It’s especially tough when you’re with friends and you can’t eat what others can but remember there are others out there who know how you feel. So keep smiling and focus on your health.
In case you want this information for later I’ve made it into a mini eBook.
For more on what to eat or avoid plus what vitamins to take, read everydayhealth.com’s article – The Foods to Eat and Avoid if You’re Going Gluten Free for Celiac Disease