How soon do I need to start eating gluten free?

Mariah Kay Jackson
I was just diagnosed but the holidays are coming up. Can I start the gluten-free diet after the craziness of the holidays and all the parties I have to go to?

Answer


Having a new diagnosis of celiac disease (CeD) can be a challenge, as it impacts day-to-day life, from making new grocery purchases to navigating social events. Holidays are a time where food is often integral to the celebration, which can be another hurdle to jump when you want to enjoy the day.

However, your health and wellness are also important factors regardless of holiday festivities. Following a strict gluten-free diet is recommended after a diagnosis is made and will allow your body to start healing. Untreated CeD can lead to various complications, impacting your short and long-term health including nutrient deficiencies, osteoporosis, certain cancers, and more. Very small amounts of gluten, even just crumb-sized, can cause an autoimmune response and damage the small intestine (1). It may be tempting to try a bite of gluten-containing foods at parties, but even “just a taste” has the potential to cause harm, with or without major symptoms.

Here are some tips on how you can start to feel empowered by taking charge and prioritizing your health while also having fun at holiday parties.

  • Foster communication and understanding: Let your family and friends know that your gluten-free diet is a medical necessity, and life-long adherence to a gluten-free diet is the only current treatment.
  • Offer to help with providing a safe option for you to enjoy: Chat with the caterer, make a dish to bring, or help the host cook.
  • Find easy grab-and-go options: Holiday parties can get crazy, and you may be jumping from one to the next. Find some easy snacks, treats or packable meal options to take with you in a pinch.
  • Learn together: Close family or friends may want to learn about cooking/eating gluten free along with you as you start this journey. Bake a fun gluten-free treat together and make some new memories or traditions along the way!
  • Find providers to help: A registered dietitian, doctor, and mental health professional/therapist are all great resources when starting to navigate life after a CeD diagnosis. From food to feelings - a lot of changes are happening, and it is okay to ask for help!

Additional NCA resources:

Reference

  1. Catassi C, Fabiani E, Iacono G, D'Agate C, Francavilla R, Biagi F, Volta U, Accomando S, Picarelli A, De Vitis I, Pianelli G, Gesuita R, Carle F, Mandolesi A, Bearzi I, Fasano A. A prospective, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial to establish a safe gluten threshold for patients with celiac disease. Am J Clin Nutr. 2007;85(1):160-6. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17209192

Published June 7, 2024

Note: This information is provided by NCA and Mariah K. Jackson, PhD, RDN, LMNT. This information is meant for educational purposes only and is not intended to substitute for personalized medical advice or replace any medical advice provided directly to you by your health care provider. No liability is assumed by the NCA or. Mariah K. Jackson, PhD, RDN, LMNT by providing this information.

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