When some one hears the word “disease” it is automatically seen as an awful thing. Even though no one is ever wishing and praying for a disease to pop up in their body, life does happen and you cannot choose your genetics. So instead of only ever seeing the awful side of the disease you have, why not see the positives.
I was diagnosed with celiac disease just over 3.5 years ago, and in spite of having my ups and downs I have decided to change my mindset and start seeing the disease not as a blessing or a curse but something I am in control of (excluding going out to eat and being cross contaminated with food). I believe that my diagnosis of celiac disease has changed my lifestyle habits for the better, and here is why.
- My diet has improved immensely.
I’m not sure about you, but before I knew I had celiac disease I could eat the whole kitchen, including the sink. What’s even funnier, I never felt full, my stomach was a black hole. So when I saw a box of donuts I would eat the whole box, or go for seconds with dinner – sometimes even thirds. Even though I had a pretty well balanced diet, I still had the urge and craving to eat fast foods and sugar. All I wanted was the simple fast carbs and sugars to give me the quick energy because my body needed it after not absorbing any nutrients.
These days, I eat less processed foods (try to not eat too much of the processed gf products as most of them have a huge amount of sugar in them – you will learn how to make things gf in your own kitchen soon enough!). I eat a more whole food diet of fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds, some beans (be careful of lentils as wheat can sometimes be found mixed in them), and lean meats. I’ve never eaten better, and I no longer have the urge to eat any fast foods or junk food as it usually is not gluten free.
- I take sleep much more seriously and have so much more energy!
I was always tired, really tired, taking naps in the day or falling asleep once 2pm hit. Growing up I was anemic and could never get my levels any higher no matter what I did. After going gluten free my iron levels are the highest they have ever been and I no longer feel the need to take a nap in the middle of the day. I usually have energy to last me the entire day now.
Before I knew about my celiac disease I was also having awful nights sleep. Not only was I exhausted throughout the day, but my body was not allowing me to sleep at night. Sleep is a huge component to increasing one’s immune system amongst many other functions within the body. I now take sleep very seriously as it helps my body heal from the damages within my gut. But also because I realize just how important it is for every day function and life.
- I have picked up my meditation practice where I left it.
I started meditating back in university to help me be more calm getting through my classes and exams. Once I passed and became a certified athletic therapist, my meditation practice slowly became something of the past for me.
Having a chronic illness can become exhausting, especially with having to think about what you are eating on a regular basis. As we all know by now, stress causes havoc on the body and it’s systems. Anything that may stress you out with your health, job, relationships or just life will have an effect on your bodies immune system along with all other systems. One way I have found to decrease this stress is through meditation, I really feel it on the days that I do not meditate. I can think clearer, make better decisions and my anxiety has decreased.
- I have learned what real patience is.
I have developed so much more patience for finding, waiting and making food. I have more patience for letting my body heal from it’s symptoms. I have more patience for not having as good of a day as yesterday knowing that next great day is just around the corner.
Everyone’s healing time is different, and because of this you will learn your very own patience with allowing it to heal in it’s own time. As I mentioned, I am 3.5 years into following a gluten free diet after my diagnosis and I still have symptoms pop up here and there. This may not be the same for you, but depending how long you were an active celiac before you found out, this may make your healing time a bit longer or shorter then someone else. Remember to be kind to yourself, you will make it over every hurdle, and every speed bump in the road.
Repeat after me: “My body will heal in it’s own time. Everyday is better than the last. My body is amazing.”
- I no longer take the simple things in life for granted.
I think back to the days when I went to a restaurant and would be so picky with the food options. If I could tell my younger past self to eat everything off the menu I would. One of the simple things I’m referring to is going to a restaurant and being able to order whatever you would like off the menu, and not have to worry about how it is being made in the kitchen. Simple things like going to a friends place or a party and not being nervous about how the food was made or what everyone else is dipping into the salsa while you are not watching it. Or even being able to go traveling and not have to worry a head of time about where you are going to eat when you get to your location.
The simple things I absolutely adore now is when I have food made for me by a chef and they bring it to me themselves, or having a friend or relative clean down the entire kitchen before they make me anything as a sign of love and respect. I get really excited when traveling and find a certified gluten free product in the store, or when I get to a restaurant and they tell me that everything on the menu is gluten free. If there is one thing that celiac disease has taught me in a great way is to never take anything for granted, so now even life events outside of food, I enjoy fully.
- I am more aware of my body and listen to it more.
I have had aches and pains before, but I never used to listen to them. When you have celiac disease and it feels like 20 small kittens are inside your gut scratching away at the lining of it, you begin to listen. I have learned what claws feel like and I know what my gut should feel like now on a gluten free diet. I do not see every symptom I feel as an autoimmune reaction to gluten anymore. I have calmed down and have started to take a few seconds to think through what it is that I am feeling and why it may be there. Then I do what I need to do for what my body is asking. My mindfulness practice has helped immensely with this one.
I have also started to learn to listen to my hunger cues through intuitive eating. This seems to be a trendy word now a days, but this is an important part of digestion and a happy body. As I mentioned, before I knew I had celiac disease I would binge eat everything in sight as I never felt full. I now know this was because I may not have been getting the nutrients my body needed. Until a few months ago, I kept up with this same habit, and it has brought on some other health issues because of it.
With the good news that my gut is healing, this means that my villi within the small intestine are able to absorb nutrients and my body can now become full. I have learned the hard way of listening to this cue, I was eating until I was overly full and to the point that my stomach was distended and very uncomfortable. I believe this has brought on the acid reflux I have been experiencing the last few months. Learn to listen to your hunger cues, your body will let you know when it needs food and when you need to stop. This comes with practice and I am no where near an expert at it as this can take a few years to truly perfect.
- I have learned a whole new way of cooking and baking that is fun and delicious!
I grew up working in a bakery and I would always stick to the baking and cooking rules of gluten. However, going gluten free threw a curve ball I was not expecting right at my gut but I have learned a whole new way of making food. To be honest, it’s so much fun! Experimenting with different GF grains, different fruits and vegetables that I had never heard of before 3.5 years ago, and experimenting with vegan, vegetarian, paleo and every cultured food there is. I have learned a new and great respect for all types of foods from all over the world, now that I cannot be choosy and picky with the food I eat. My diet is so much more varied, so much more interesting and delicious. The best part is that my gut microbiome is loving all the different nutrients it can digest now. Just wait, your taste buds are going to explode into happiness!
- I have learned, and am still practicing, how to change my mindset from negative to positive.
This is so unbelievably hard to do. Day in and day out I will have multiple negative thoughts run through my head. Mental health issues can be a part of celiac disease, but learning how to over come them is so very important. When a negative thought comes in I instantly tell myself, no. Then think of the positives of every situation or conversation I am in. Consistent negative thoughts everyday will have a long term effect on your mental health. Your body is going through enough as it is healing, there is no need to add more for it to think about. One way you can tackle this is by wearing an elastic band around your wrist and every time a negative thought comes in, snap it against your wrist lightly to stop your thinking process. Then replace it with a positive thought.
- I have more of an understanding for anyone in pain, especially chronic pain.
Regardless if you have an autoimmune disease, a chronic injury, or something your body is currently going through, being in pain everyday will wear on you. With what my body has been through so far, I have so much more respect for the people in the world that have not found the answer to no pain just yet. This has made me a better and more understanding therapist, friend, sister, daughter, niece, partner and stranger. Until you have been through it yourself, you will never truly understand what someone is going through. Not to mention everyone experiences the same thing different ways. Just always know that the end is near and your answer will come to you soon enough. You are feeling what you are feeling for a reason, it is not all in your head and you are not alone.
- The most important one, I feel so much better! And you will too.
I never knew what it was like to feel “normal” until I felt normal. I thought everything I was feeling was how it was supposed to be, and now that I know it is not, I am on cloud nine. I can think clearly, I’m not bloated everyday, my hair has never been so thick, my energy is back, my strength is coming back, and I’m starting to become motivated again. I truly cannot think of a better way to live and I wouldn’t trade it for the world because this is my world and I have worked so hard to learn how to navigate through it. Now I have the opportunity to maybe help just one human find their way through it too. And that is such an empowering feeling.
I know being diagnosed with a chronic condition at first can seem scary, unbelievable and leave you saying, “why me?” But once you start to live your new life, you will see and feel how much better you are and start to see the positives of having celiac disease or any chronic condition you may have. Don’t loose hope, there is always a rainbow after the storm. You will come to see it soon, and you will kick ass when it does.
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