|Dealing with people who don't understand why we're gluten-free|
by Tami Maldonado-Mancebo
One of the biggest challenges of this disease is helping others to realize how significant it is. After we have become completely gluten-free, we look and feel great! In fact, so much better that we sometimes forget that we have a serious disorder. We may also find it difficult to convince other people that we have a very critical autoimmune disease.
We have all been in contact with (or will at some time in the future) a well-meaning friend or relative who offers us (a celiac) or our celiac child an item containing gluten. This offering is then almost always followed up with a comment such as "it won't hurt just this once" or "it only has a little." So, how do we handle this situation? The answer is as tough as the original diagnosis - we each are affected differently, and we each have a different personality type and so there is no one right way to handle this. However, the situation does require that we stand up for ourselves or for our child in a way that does not offend others, nor does it open the door for them to continue offering unsafe items.
I have found that when these situations arise, a simple reminder of how concerned the person was for my welfare, or that of my children, when I/we were physically suffering from this disease helps to bring things back into perspective. Of course, now that we are feeling better and have no outward symptoms, it becomes a bit more difficult to visualize or even remember the pain and suffering that was once so prevalent in our lives. I have personally gotten to where I feel so fantastic that I have caught myself mentally justifying that just one slice of pizza or one hamburger bun would not be the death of me. Then I am reminded that it does contribute to my overall well being and that of my children, so it is not worth the risk.
Remember that each time someone close to us sees us straying from our "special diet," they might perceive that our gluten-free lifestyle is not very important to us. Keep in mind, if we choose to indulge ourselves, we might be able to escape any dramatic symptoms the first time or two and so we would be more inclined to return to a "normal diet" which will ultimately lead to significant complications to our bodies.
Remember! We are the lucky few who do have celiac disease! We have the only autoimmune disease for which doctors actually know the cause, and it is also the only one with a known cure (a gluten-free lifestyle). Each time we ingest the offending grains we are affecting our overall health. If we remain gluten-free, our life expectancy is the same as any other member of society. If we choose to indulge ourselves, even if only occasionally, we are choosing to shorten that time - time we can spend with our loved ones and friends. So, instead of allowing others to tempt us and watch us choose poorly, let us enlist our family and friends as partners in our choice to live long and healthy lives. It is amazing how much easier life is when you recruit others in your quest for a gluten-free life. People really do care and want to help.