By Miranda Massie on March 2, 2017
A friend of mine was recently diagnosed with celiac disease. Although she was not experiencing any symptoms, she was tested based on the diagnosis of a close relative. The results came back positive – and from that point on she has had to make significant changes to her life.
Even if someone is not experiencing physical symptoms, celiac disease can damage the intestinal lining, which increases the risk of future health problems. According to the Canadian Celiac Association, treating the disease requires a “strict adherence to a GLUTEN FREE DIET FOR LIFE.” Their website literally spells it out in ALL CAPS.
Before my friend’s diagnosis, I had an idea of what a gluten free diet looked like: avoid bread and pasta, order bun-less burgers and use a substitute for wheat-based flour when baking. I was very wrong. Over the last few months, I have learned so much about the challenges of living with a food allergy or intolerance. It is not simply choosing the “GF” menu item at a restaurant.
Living gluten-free means:
- having to check ingredient labels on everything from salad dressing to Tylenol,
- needing a separate cutting board, knife and cooking equipment when sharing a kitchen with gluten eaters,
- bringing your own pre-prepared food to parties and dinners with friends, and
- being the only person with nothing but water in front of them when out at a restaurant.
It requires a complete lifestyle overhaul that, sadly, those who don’t have food allergies will have a hard time understanding. Eating and meal preparation are communal events in many cultures, and a diagnosis like this can lead to both physical and social isolation.
Research shows that rates of depression are more common in adults diagnosed with celiac disease and that these rates are similar to those of people living with other chronic physical illnesses. Food sensitivities or allergies in general are associated with higher levels of psychological distress (including depression and anxiety) in both children and adults.
Through my friend’s diagnosis, I have learned to be more tolerant, and I have learned to be more patient and empathetic. I have a greater understanding of just how tough it is to maintain a specialized diet – it’s a lifestyle commitment that requires tremendous dedication, strength and vigilance. One I doubt that I would have the strength for.
In honour of Nutrition Month, and in a spirit of humanity and understanding, I invite you to be kind to those around you living with food allergies. We exist in a world that is not typically designed to make their lives easy. And since we require food for survival, these folks could probably use some thoughtful support and understanding.
For more information about food allergies and how to provide support, visit the Newly Diagnosed Support Centre created by Food Allergy Canada.
All my best,
Canadian Celiac Association: http://www.celiac.ca/
Cummings, A. J., Knibb, R. C., King, R. M. and Lucas, J. S. (2010). The psychosocial impact of food allergy and food hypersensitivity in children, adolescents and their families: a review. Allergy 65: 933–945. doi:10.1111/j.1398-9995.2010.02342.x
Lieberman, J. A. & Sicherer, S. H. (2011). Quality of life in food allergy. Current Opinion in Allergy and Clinical Immunology 11(3): 236–242. doi: 10.1097/ACI.0b013e3283464cf0
Smith, D. F. and Gerdes, L. U. (2012). Meta-analysis on anxiety and depression in adult celiac disease. Acta Psychiatrica Scandinavica 125: 189–193. doi:10.1111/j.1600-0447.2011.01795.x
Posted in Editorial, Miranda Massie, Nutrition | Tagged allergies, compassion, Diet, eating, editorial, education, food, food intolerance, gluten, gluten-free, health, Miranda Massie, nutrition month | 7 Responses
By Melissa Lafrance on March 2, 2017
March is Nutrition Month, a national celebration focused on healthy eating education and awareness. There’s no better time to take advantage of the many services and programs offered through your UBC benefits that can support you (and your eligible dependants) in the shift to healthier eating and living.
Through UBC benefits, you can:
- be reimbursed for the cost of services from a registered dietitian and/or naturopath under the Extended Health Benefits plan and
- access nutrition support, health coaching, naturopathic services and a healthy weight management program from Shepell, UBC’s Employee and Family Assistance Program provider.
Extended Health Benefits: Registered Dietitian & Naturopath
The UBC Extended Health Benefits plan is designed to promote the continued health and wellbeing of staff, faculty and their dependants. There is coverage for a wide range of services, including paramedical practitioners such as registered dietitians and naturopaths.
Registered dietitians provide advice and counselling about diet, food and nutrition. They can help you make healthy food choices and manage any special health conditions you may have, such as diabetes, heart disease, cancer, allergies and obesity.
Registered naturopaths use a natural and holistic approach to the maintenance of good health and can help you with improving digestion, boosting energy levels and making proper nutrition and food choices.
To learn more about coverage for registered dietitians and naturopaths, visit the Extended Health page.
Employee and Family Assistance Program (EFAP) Services
UBC’s EFAP provider Shepell offers four services that can help you and your eligible dependants with healthy eating. All services are provided by telephone consultation. To book services or for more information on what service is right for you, call the Shepell Care Access Centre at 1-800-387-4765 or visit www.workhealthlife.com.
Nutrition Support Services
Shepell’s Nutrition Support Services can help you make positive changes to your diet and address issues such as weight loss or weight gain, eating routines and lifestyle changes. You can also connect with a registered dietitian who can assess your eating habits, identify dietary concerns and answer nutrition-related questions.
Support is available for a variety of concerns, including:
- Weight loss or gain
- Boosting stress resilience
- Healthy eating on-the-go
- Accommodating shift work
- Well-balanced vegetarian diets
- Lowering/managing cholesterol levels
- Reducing high blood pressure
- Regulating diabetes
- Preventing heart disease
- Preventing osteoporosis
Shepell’s Health Coaching Services teach you about the changes required to be well and stay well, while providing support and motivation to help you reach your lifestyle goals.
Health coaches can work with you to create a risk-reduction action plan targeting:
- Weight management
- Healthy eating
- Smoking cessation
- Responsible alcohol use
- Stress management
- Exercise as a component of a healthy lifestyle
Professionals in Shepell’s Naturopathic Services will provide you with information about naturopathic medicine and how it works. You will learn practical lifestyle practices that you can use every day to improve digestion, boost your energy levels and help you make proper nutrition and food choices.
Healthy Weight Management
Shepell’s Healthy Weight Management program can help you manage your weight by showing you how to make positive physical activity and nutrition changes with the support of a personal coach.
Healthy Weight Management consists of the following components:
- Online assessment
- Interactive online program including trackers, goal setting and challenges
- Smart scale to track progress and outcomes
- Consultations with a coach over the phone or through online chat