A new diagnosis of celiac disease is life-changing. But, it is important to remember these changes can be positive. The positive aspects of a celiac disease diagnosis may be more than you realize. Let’s highlight 10 reasons why a diagnosis of celiac disease can change your life for the better!
A Personal Story
The last time I went backpacking was before my celiac disease diagnosis. After my diagnosis, life got busy; I started a family and put backpacking trips on hold. When I returned to it, what suddenly struck me was how good I felt. And how much easier it was to hike for an entire day – even though it was ten years and three children later.
The stark difference between the before and after was too much to ignore. I thought, “How lucky am I compared to the 2.5 million Americans who are still undiagnosed and suffering?” Like many others, I lived for years with fatigue and strange symptoms, continually rationalizing the symptoms and telling myself to push on.
Lucky To Be Diagnosed
This made me realize how important it is to reflect on the positive aspects of having a celiac diagnosis. This perspective is rarely addressed in blogs, support groups, and books about celiac disease and the gluten-free diet.
Naturally, the focus of professional and peer support tends to be on the negative aspects of the disease because we all need help with the daily challenges, lack of knowledge in the medical community, ongoing health issues, and social misperceptions.
But today, I want to turn the tables and focus on the positive aspects of knowing you have celiac disease. And how taking that perspective can impact your health and enrich your life.
What A Positive Attitude Does
Medical literature confirms that attitude and perception have a tangible impact on wellness. A study on Parkinson’s patients found those with a tendency towards optimism had a better quality of life and improved medical and psychological outcomes. People with positive attitudes recover faster, are sick less often, and are happier.
A study by doctors at U.C. San Francisco found that children who attended a week-long celiac camp demonstrated improvement in well-being, self-perception, and emotional outlook. Although there are few other studies evaluating the effect of a positive and outcome for celiac disease patients, it is reasonable to assume from related studies that a positive attitude about your celiac diagnosis will bring about positive change and improved health.
If you are a fan of TED talks, as I am, many discuss the effects of positivity on productivity and wellness. Check out this popular TED talk on how happiness inspires us to increase useful information and a laugh. Laughter is good for the spirit as well.
10 Reasons To Be Grateful For A Celiac Diagnosis
1. You Know You Have Celiac Disease
It is estimated that 2.5 million people in the USA have celiac disease and are undiagnosed. Diagnosis is the first step to wellness. Be grateful for your path to diagnosis, whether you requested testing or someone else thought to test you.
2. You Feel Better
The symptoms of celiac disease vary greatly from one person to the next, but fatigue seems to almost always be present. Improved energy and a decrease in symptoms are undeniably among the top benefits of diagnosis.
3. You Have An Instant Community
Many people suffer undiagnosed for years, often in isolation. A diagnosis brings you into a community that can finally understand what you have and are going through. You have an immediate support system through national and local support organizations and online social networks.
4. You May Help Your Children Or Other Familiy Members
It is recommended that all first-degree relatives of someone diagnosed with celiac disease be tested, whether or not they have symptoms (that’s children, parents and siblings). Testing of symptomatic second degree relativesis also recommended (grandparents, grandchildren, cousins, aunts, uncles, nieces and nephews). Your diagnosis may help someone you love get diagnosed. I have seen this many times in my medical practice.
5. You Might Help A Friend
Your diagnosis may help someone you know or even a stranger learn more about celiac disease. Knowledge increases awareness. Awareness increases the number of people properly diagnosed. Conversations like the ones you have with friends and coworkers, at the grocery store, or with restaurant staff, can lead to a diagnosis.
6. You Lower Your Risk Of Other Health Problems
The initiation and adherence to a strict gluten-free diet decreases your risk of developing conditions associated with celiac disease, such as osteoporosis and other autoimmune conditions. The sooner you are diagnosed, the lower your risk of additional diagnoses.
7. No Medications Or Shots Required
While a gluten-free diet is challenging at first, with time it becomes your norm. No shots, surgery or medications are generally needed. If you consider the treatment for many other chronic diseases, you may feel relatively fortunate.
8. You Learn To Cook
For many people, a diagnosis means the first time they have ever read labels or started cooking on a regular basis. Hopefully. this steers them to a healthier diet. They may rely less on fast food and consume more whole, unprocessed foods. One can clearly follow an “unhealthy” gluten-free diet by relying on packaged or processed foods, but it is just as easy and less risky to take on the challenge of learning to cook. Even simple recipes can be delicious.
9. You Try New, Interesting Foods
Ethnic cuisines such as Indian, Thai and Persian have many naturally gluten-free dishes. Alternative grains such as quinoa, millet, teff and buckwheat may now be part of your culinary vocabulary. You may never have ventured into trying these cuisines and foods without the need for a gluten-free diet.
10. Your Worries About What Is Wrong Are Gone
Those strange, unexplained symptoms you had prior to diagnosis, which may have been attributed by your doctors to a range of causes from stress to psychiatric illness, now have an explanation. They also typically disappear with initiation of a strict gluten-free diet.
Important To Remember:
It is important to remember that not everyone with celiac disease fully recovers their health with only the gluten-free diet. In fact, up to 40% still suffer from ongoing symptoms for a variety of reasons. For these patients, approaching aspects of their illness in a positive light, when possible, is even more vital. It may give them the fortitude to continue to search for the cause of their persistent symptoms.
Please rest assured that I am not trying to minimize the struggles associated with having celiac disease; some days are difficult and occasional pity parties are allowed. But when those challenging days occur, try to remember these ten reasons to be grateful you are diagnosed. The burden of those difficult days just might lift a little faster.
THIS ARTICLE IS COPYRIGHTED BY AMY BURKHART, MD, RD.
Dr. Amy Burkhart is a doctor (M.D.), Registered Dietitian, R.D., and fellowship-trained in integrative medicine. She specializes in treating chronic digestive disorders from an integrative/functional medicine perspective.