New to Gluten-Free: Questions

Grocery shopping, storing and preparing food, eating at restaurants—these are basic elements of modern life. When you make the transition to living gluten-free, you have to re-learn how to do all of these things. It can be quite overwhelming, especially if you are already dealing with your own or your loved one’s poor health.

iStock_000003351864LargeFinding strategies that work for your lifestyle is critical to easing this transition. These strategies will look different depending on your unique situation. For instance, a woman diagnosed with Celiac Disease as a young adult who lives alone will require different solutions than that same woman who has a roommate or her spouse and young children sharing kitchen space with her. Every person’s experience with living gluten-free is different (and may change over time over the course of various life stages) and that means there need to be flexible solutions for this transition.

The following questions may help you begin the process of discovering your best solutions for transitioning to living gluten-free (click here for a printable version of this list):

Why am I eating gluten-free?

This answer may seem simple, but it is important to verbalize the reason for eating gluten-free because it may help you stay motivated and/or remain on course when times get tough. And they will. It can be really annoying to eat gluten-free, but it’s often much more inconvenient to have chronic diarrhea or brain fog or stomach cramps.

How does eating gluten affect me physically? Mentally? Emotionally?

Somewhat of an extension of the first question, but it is important to differentiate your symptoms for an additional reason: if/when you are contaminated, these symptoms may help you quickly identify the offender to minimize the damage and/or prevent it from happening again.

How do I feel about eating gluten-free?

Don’t be surprised to feel conflicting or even changing emotions about being gluten-free. A lot of people need to go through a grief process that may include any or all of the following emotions: relief, frustration, denial, anger, sadness or depression, anxiety, joy, and fear. Identify your feelings, check in regularly with your loved ones, and ask for support when you need it.

Who can I ask for support throughout this process?

Identify your natural supports—the people who already provide support in your life—and think about how you can ask them to support you. Would it be helpful for your spouse to learn how to prepare naturally gluten-free meals for the whole family? Would it be helpful for your roommate to learn about gluten contamination issues? Then, determine if you would like to add new supports to your network. Would it be helpful to connect with other gluten-free teens on an online support group? Would it be helpful to swap recipes with other gluten-free moms? The key here is: what would be most helpful for you?

What questions do I have about eating gluten-free?

Write them down or keep a list on your smart phone. There will be lots of questions, especially at the beginning of your transition, so be prepared to document the answers to them. You can find a lot of helpful information for basic questions on the internet (via articles, blogs, or eBooks) but the most helpful information will most likely come from other members of the gluten-free community. Finding a community or mentor you trust will ease a lot of anxieties associated with living gluten-free. Once you find what works for you, share it with others! You never know who may benefit from your experience.

What tools will best help minimize gluten contamination during a typical day?

Think about your kitchen—do you share it with people who regularly eat gluten? Can you make your kitchen 100% gluten-free? If so, how will you do that? What will you do to minimize contamination if you have houseguests? Other issues to consider: do you share a kitchen at work or school? Do you enjoy eating out at restaurants? Do you travel a lot? A variety of products now exist to minimize gluten contamination in shared spaces or commercial kitchens, such as dining cards or gluten-free labels—consider your individual needs and decide if any of these products may help you.

What will help me feel “normal” throughout this process?

This may be the most important question to ask yourself when feeling overwhelmed by your transition. Finding a way to honor established family traditions or special occasions may take some of the sting out of your new gluten-free lifestyle. Finding a new recipe for “Pancake Saturdays” or making your own pizza crusts for weekly pizza nights may not seem like the biggest priority, but it might be a good place to start if it helps you or your loved one feel more comfortable making the transition to eating gluten-free.

Please share in the comments below:

What is the best tip you received when you transitioned to gluten-free living?

and/or

What question are you struggling to answer about gluten-free living?

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