Good day to you.  My name is Dougie and I’m a Celiac.  How many times have I made this or a variance of this greeting to people I’ve interacted with?  I wouldn’t be able to count.  The more important question I would like to ask is this – how do you feel when you make that greeting?

Celiac disease is an emotional autoimmune disease.  When I was younger, I felt like cringing when I had to announce my disease.  Why?  It alerted others I was different, not the norm, and high maintenance.  I would then have to go into my spiel of what celiac disease is and what I can eat (yes, I can eat potatoes) and cannot eat (no, I cannot eat just the cherries off of the pie crust), gluten.  It can be very frustrating, especially if my audience doesn’t get it.  Having to explain myself, and my disease, only intensifies my feelings of difference.  Now that I’m older and have a better understanding of the disease, I embrace it.  As a result of embracing celiac disease, I’ve found my emotions and self-esteem has improved for the positive.  I no longer cringe when I say “Hi, my name is Dougie and I’m a Celiac.”  Why?  Because of my attitude change and how I feel about myself and my disease.  I own who I am and what I have.  While celiac disease is not the whole of me, it is a part of me.

Besides the social element of emotion in regard to celiac disease, there is another important emotional aspect – the food itself.  Yes, for the normal diet, food brings about many emotions as a result of memories, comfort, and well-being.  For the celiac survivor, food also brings about these same emotions but I feel there’s more to it.  Negative emotions and feelings can abound if the celiac survivor focuses on what they can’t eat or make.  On the flip side, the celiac survivor can achieve the same emotions as those on a regular diet by focusing on what they can eat or make.  What can celiac survivors do to focus on what they can eat or make?  Learn how to cook gluten-free by making substitutions for gluten flour in recipes.  Focus on natural vegetables and fruits without using flour.  Get delicious recipes from other celiac survivors.  What is the celiac survivor left with?  Emotions brought on by positive memories, comfort, and well-being.

I do not have a medical background or education.  That said I feel many celiac survivors are not in touch with their emotions enough to validate themselves and what they are up against as a survivor.  Acknowledging the feelings and emotions, I feel, is one of the first steps for the celiac survivor to recover mentally and then physically and truly be gluten-free.  I feel until these first steps are understood and completed, the true celiac survivor does not exist.  What do you think?

Research, educate, and advocate all celiac and gluten-free – and Celiac Disease Awareness for May.

Peace be with you.