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 July 6, 2016
UBC’s Health, Wellbeing and Benefits team has a great line up of free activities and events coming your way this summer. Sign up today for programs including Office Stretches & Workouts, Celiac Disease & Gluten-free, Learn to Meditate Three-Part Series, Not Myself Today, Ergo Your Office, Eldercare and plenty more!
Celiac Disease & Gluten-Free Diet: Myths vs. Facts – July 7, 2016 @ 12-1pm (Location: Point Grey)
Are you thinking about going gluten-free? Is going gluten-free actually healthier for you? This workshop will focus on the myths and truths of the gluten-free diet, and delve into celiac disease and non-celiac gluten sensitivity.
The facilitators of the session are Val Vaartnou, President of the Canadian Celiac Association (Vancouver Chapter) and Nicole Fetterly, Registered Dietitian and Nutrition & Wellness Manager in UBC Student Housing and Hospitality Services. All staff and faculty are welcome to attend.
Learn to Meditate Three-Part Series – July 11, 18, & 25, 2016 @ 12-1pm (Location: Point Grey)
The three-part Learn to Meditate series is back by popular demand for summer 2016! Wendy Quan will provide an introduction and basic concepts of meditation and mindfulness techniques. This three-session course, tuned for the working environment, is designed for those both new and experienced in the world of mindfulness meditation.
For $35, you can learn to cultivate personal resilience, learn techniques to reduce and manage stress, and gain confidence to practice meditation and mindfulness. For more information and to register, click here.
Not Myself Today Info Session – July 12, 2016 @ 12-1pm (Location: Point Grey)
Not Myself Today is a campaign focusing on helping workplaces achieve better understanding of mental health and reduce stigma. As part of Thrive 2016, the Not Myself Today campaign will be implemented within numerous departments for the second year. UBC departments can easily take part in the campaign during Thrive week (Oct 31 – Nov 4) using tools and resources to educate their staff and faculty.
Join us to learn about the campaign and how your department can get involved, discover support tools and resources, and learn about mental health. For more information and to register, click here.
Ergo Your Office – July 27, 2016 @ 12-1pm (Location: Point Grey)
Optimize your computer work environment to improve comfort and reduce the risk of injury. This one-hour tutorial combines a presentation and a practical session, giving you hands-on experience adjusting typical office equipment. By the end of the tutorial you will know how to set up your chair, keyboard/mouse and monitor to promote neutral working postures. For more information and to register, click here.
Eldercare 101 – July 27, 2016 @ 12-1pm (Location: Point Grey)
Join Home-to-Home, a seniors advisory and assistance business, in this one-hour session on eldercare planning and management. Participants will learn how to develop eldercare plans related to housing, how to avoid crisis situations, access resources, budgeting, legal considerations, and gain a greater awareness of eldercare options and resources. For more information and to register, click here.
Posted in Events, Healthy UBC Initiatives, Mental Health, Physical Health | Tagged Diet, Eldercare, Ergonomics, gluten-free, Learn to Meditate, Meditation, mental health, Not Myself today, Nutrition, stretching, Support, workouts, workplace | Leave a response