Living with celiac doesn’t just affect the person who’s been diagnosed with the condition. Because food plays such a central role in our lives — and because even the smallest gluten-containing crumb can create issues for someone with the autoimmune disorder — partners, family members and friends may also need to make certain adjustments to their lifestyle.
Food writer Collier Sutter found this out firsthand when her 26-year-old boyfriend was diagnosed with celiac. Recounting what it’s been like on the website Greatest, she describes all the changes she made in her day-to-day life to ensure his safety, from brushing her teeth before giving him a kiss to double-checking labels.
With a year of supporting her boyfriend’s gluten-free lifestyle under her belt, Sutter outlines a number of ways you can support a loved one with celiac, including the following:
1. Check food labels.
Ensure anything you’re purchasing for your loved one is gluten-free, and follow up with a check online or phone call to determine the risk of cross-contamination in the production facilities.
2. Purchase new tools for food preparation and keep them separate.
This includes cutting boards, pots, pans, sink sponges and utensils. Labeling the gluten-free items to ensure they’re never accidentally used for gluten-containing foods is a good idea.
3. Consider purchasing a slow cooker or pressure cooker.
If gluten-containing foods are being made in the oven, this gadget will provide an uncontaminated space for cooking gluten-free meals.
4. Be cautious on nights out.
Make sure any restaurants you visit understand the seriousness of the condition and take measures to prevent cross contamination in the kitchen.
5. Consider adopting the gluten-free diet yourself.
This is certainly the most radical approach, but without any gluten in the house, your loved one can rest assured that home is a safe zone.
With Sutter’s advice in mind, what are some other helpful steps you can take?
6. Stay on top of celiac research to learn about new developments.
Studies are constantly under way to learn more about the causes of the condition and investigate possible preventative steps and treatments.
7. Keep an eye out for gluten-free products to try.
New gluten-free foods are constantly becoming available, whether on supermarket shelves, in restaurants or in the form of recipes you can make at home. If there’s a particular food your loved one has been missing from his or her pre-diagnosis days, there’s likely a tasty gluten-free alternative out there.
8. Prior to traveling, investigate the availability of gluten-free option en route and at the destination.
In addition, make sure any necessary steps are taken, such as communicating with airline, restaurant or resort staff beforehand, to ensure a relaxing gluten-free experience.
9. Consider attending a celiac support group with your loved one.
Sometimes, the emotional boost of hearing from others sharing the same lived experiences and trading tips can be just what the doctor ordered.
10. Lend an ear.
Finally, one of the most important things you can do is to simply listen, and understand that while maintaining such a strict lifestyle is necessary, it isn’t always easy.
You’re off to a great start by reading these tips. Give one a try today — your gluten-free loved one will thank you!
Want more tips and advice for living, or supporting someone with, a gluten-free lifestyle? Check out this roundup.