With time and effort, you'll be able to change your eating habits and stay healthy. These tips may help:
- Get lots of advice. Dietitians, other health experts, and celiac disease support groups can give you lots of help. Try keeping a food diary until you are more familiar with planning meals without gluten.
- Watch out for hidden glutenhidden gluten . Read labels on prepared or processed food carefully. For example, "hydrolyzed vegetable protein" may come from wheat and contain gluten.
- Prevent contamination. It's best to keep gluten-free foods in a separate cupboard. Make sure your kitchen counters, utensils, and appliances are clean and free of gluten before you use them. Use a separate toaster for gluten-free breads.
- Talk to waiters. When eating out, let your server know that you have special dietary needs.
- Check your (or your child's) weight weekly to make sure you're getting enough nutrients.
- Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables to avoid constipation. If you need to, use gluten-free commercial fiber preparations, such as those that contain rice bran.
Children and teens
Following a special diet may be especially hard for children and teens, who often don't want to feel different from their friends. Also, teens seem to have fewer symptoms than younger children after eating gluten.
Here are some things you can do to help:
- Contact your local hospital, dietitian, or doctor for information about support groups in your area. Most people find these groups helpful for discovering ways to help them deal with their condition.
- Work with your child's school. Talk to teachers or school nurses about everyday strategies. Find out what other kids are taking for lunch. For example, if other kids are carrying cold lunches, find ways to pack similar gluten-free cold lunches. If your child prefers a hot lunch, work with the school cafeteria to see whether gluten-free choices are available. The more "normal" the diet can seem, the better the chances that your child will follow it.
- Let your child have some responsibility. With younger children, make a game out of choosing foods that are gluten-free. Allow older children to choose gluten-free foods. Helping your teen follow a gluten-free diet usually includes recognizing his or her increasing need for independence.
- Deal with slip-ups. Understand that food can be a part of socializing and fitting in. Your child may accidentally (or on purpose) eat some foods that contain gluten. If your child experiences symptoms after eating gluten, focus attention on how he or she feels physically.
- Plan ahead. Before social events-for example, slumber parties-where foods containing gluten will likely be served, remind your child about what happens when he or she eats gluten. Try to plan ahead for these occasions by talking to friends' parents or preparing something gluten-free that the group can eat.
If symptoms return
If symptoms of celiac disease return after your child or you were symptom-free while following a gluten-free diet, it usually means that foods containing gluten were eaten. Here are some tips:
- Try to write down what your child eats. Keep detailed notes about every meal and snack.
- Check food labels, looking closely for ingredients that may be sources of hidden gluten. Your local library or bookstore should have resources that can help you identify potential sources of hidden gluten.
- If your child's symptoms return, be sure to ask detailed questions about what he or she has recently eaten away from home.
Call your doctor if you are confident that your or your child's diet is gluten-free but symptoms have returned or continue.