If you have celiac disease, then you already know the discipline it takes to live without gluten. But if you yourself do not have celiac, what should you be doing, if anything? Maybe you're a family member, like me, or a companion, or just a friend who cares about someone and wants to help. As such, you probably do not really understand how difficult it is for someone with gluten intolerance, but you know it's not easy.
I wanted to start with the most important things first since living with dietary restrictions is a marathon and not a sprint. The number one most important thing you can do is to be supportive. Often it's the emotional part of living with any limitation that is overlooked, so being supportive is the number one way you can help the person with celiac disease.
Just knowing someone else cares can help. That said, here are seven ways you can be supportive:
1) Listen to how celiac disease has had, and will always have, an impact on his or her life.
2) Learn as much as you can about gluten and celiac disease and share that knowledge.
3) Understand that eating gluten-free is imperative to the health and well being of the person.
4) Learn what foods are and are not gluten-free.
5) Do not complain about extra effort in finding and preparing food without gluten or seeking diet-conscious restaurants and establishments.
6) Be flexible and open in trying out new methods, recipes, and tastes.
7) Be empathetic and never ever say, “you're lucky it can be treated with diet.”
Of course, there are more than seven ways to be supportive. If you know the person coping with celiac disease really well, such as a family member, then you will be able to personalize the list to emphasize the most important areas for their specific situation. For example, if the person is new to celiac disease and unsure about where to find a good selection of acceptable ingredients, you can help out by offering to research what the different stores or markets in your area carry in the way of gluten-free foods (also see no.4). Report your findings, or better yet, buy some of those ingredients and try out a new gluten-free recipe with them!
Living with celiac disease is a challenge for everyone, so let's be supportive of our loved ones and get on board.