It may seem absolutely ridiculous that there would be benefits of living with Coeliac Disease. Being diagnosed taught me a number of things and most of them are positive! Here is a snapshot:
1. No more symptoms
Hip hip hooray!! Knowing I wasn’t living life how I wanted to because of my symptoms was such a tedious, irritating and painful nuisance. I was unable to sleep at night, I gave up exercise and my social life was heavily impacted. It was a relief to finally be diagnosed with an issue I could fix. Even though Coeliac Disease is an autoimmune disorder requiring a lifelong strict gluten free diet, it was a blessing to have a solution to the problem overtaking my body from the inside out.
2. Appreciate what you can have
“There is gluten in everything!” is just not true. When you can’t have one thing, you learn to appreciate the other things more. People living with Coeliac Disease can eat ALL fruit, vegetables, nuts, legumes, dairy, meats and plenty of grains – just not wheat, rye, barley or oats or ingredients derived from them. Yes, a lot of processed foods have gluten-containing additives thrown in for better texture or cheaper production, which brings me to my next point.
3. Eat less processed foods
When whole foods are processed they are often stripped of nutrients. Of course this is not always the case, many processed foods have nutrients added to them in unnatural ways. The thing is, we don’t need most of these processed foods. The latest Australian Health Survey states “on average, just over one-third (35%) of total daily energy reported as consumed was from discretionary foods”, where discretionary foods are foods and drinks not necessary for a healthy diet and are too high in saturated fat and/or added sugars, added salt or alcohol and low in fibre. When I do eat processed foods I must read the label to make sure there are no gluten-containing ingredients.
4. Environmentally friendly
Eating less food products that have been packaged in plastic and carted halfway around the world has got to be beneficial for the environment. Win-win!
5. Pause the mindless munching
While I take the time to read every food label I notice the other ingredients in the food product – often a load of sugar, salt or a trail of numbers representing some kind of unnatural substance of unknown origin. By reading the label on everything I get a real understanding of exactly what I am putting in my mouth. It allows time for my head to work out if the food product should really be going into my body. It’s like a pause button on the mindless munching process.
6. Use other senses
So I am out to dinner, my friends order some kind of gluten-rich pizza or pasta and it looks AMAZING. What am I to do? Cry in misery and feel sorry for myself for not being able to eat it? What is the use in that? Instead I look at the food and smell it and enjoy what I can from it without eating it. This concept may sound silly to those that haven’t experienced going without. It is quite amazing how you can learn to enjoy foods without eating them. I am no psychologist, but I feel like the word ‘reframing’ fits here; reframe the way you perceive an experience and learn to enjoy it with what you’ve got.
7. Get creative with recipes
Not eating traditional bread and pasta makes for some interesting and creative meals. I recently had someone make me french toast with eggplant in the place of bread and wow, it. was. SO. good. It’s fun and exciting getting creative with recipes, playing with food and making something different and delicious!
8. Get food first on the plane
That feeling when you’re on a 15 hour flight and you watch the trolley ever so slowly make its way down the aisle to you at the back of the plane just doesn’t happen for people with food allergies. Getting your food first with the children feels like christmas has come early, even if it is airplane food.
9. No means no
When you are diagnosed with an allergy/Coeliac Disease it is much easier to say no to allergenic foods than it is to say no to a food you may be intolerant to. When you can “just have a little bit” it is easy to eat more than you set out to and deal with the consequences later on. It may take weeks to months for a person with Coeliac Disease to fully recover from a bout of gluten ingestion. The lifelong consequences make it easy to say no!
10. Understand going without
Having a good understanding of not being able to ‘have something’ is beneficial for empathising and connecting with other people. It’s an automatic ‘click’ when you meet someone else with an allergy. New friends is always great!