Welcome to Celiac-Self Care! In this series, we’re exploring the ways in which celiac disease affects quality of life and sharing the self-care strategies that help our Reach Beyond Celiac Ambassadors cope.
In this introductory post, Reach Beyond Celiac Ambassador Christina Heiser explains why self-care is an important part of managing celiac disease and which self-care practices she finds effective.
By Christina Heiser
As a health writer and editor, I’ve worked on countless articles about the importance of self-care—the practice of taking care of yourself physically, mentally, and emotionally—over my decade-plus career.
Since being diagnosed with celiac disease in 2020, though, I haven’t always prioritized self-care in my own life. After all, living with celiac disease is a lot of work—and it’s easy to neglect self-care when you have so much else going on.
Studies show adhering to a gluten-free diet can feel more burdensome than lifestyle treatments for other conditions—and research also finds people with celiac disease are at higher risk of experiencing anxiety, depression, and disordered eating.
This is a lesson I learned a few months ago, when it hit me that I was headed toward burnout if I didn’t start carving out time for self-care. I was completely exhausted, frustrated, and lonely from having to follow such a restrictive diet.
I dreaded having to cook yet another meal for myself. I got worked up when dining out didn’t go exactly according to my plans. I avoided social situations—even if I really wanted to go—because I felt like I just couldn’t deal with my celiac disease outside of the four walls of my apartment.
How does self-care play into all of this? According to the National Institute of Mental Health, self-care can help you manage stress, decrease your risk of illness, and boost your energy. So dedicating even just a few minutes a day to self-care could alleviate some of the burden and anxiety that comes along with navigating celiac disease.
I knew I needed to make a change so that I could start enjoying my life again. So the first self-care step I took was meeting with a dietitian in my city who specializes in celiac disease. She gave me guidance on dining out so that I could start feeling more comfortable at restaurants.
The second self-care step I took was finding a support group. I applied to be a Beyond Celiac Reach Beyond Celiac Ambassador and have been lucky enough to connect with many people in the celiac community through this program. It’s nice to have friends I can email, text, or call about anything and everything related to celiac disease.
I’ve also signed up for a few gluten-free meal delivery kits to cut down on my time in the kitchen. Having pre-cooked meals and easy-to-prep dishes on-hand has been a major stress-reliever. Now I don’t have to worry about cooking every meal from scratch.
Finally, I started doing yoga and meditation. Research shows practicing mindfulness can help ease stress. Adding yoga and meditation to my routine has been an effective way to relieve anxiety. I block off time on my work calendar to fit in a few minutes of mindfulness every day.
While I’ve only recently incorporated self-care into my daily routine, I’ve already noticed positive effects. I’m better at handling stressful situations, I’m more confident about dining out, and I have a more positive outlook on my diagnosis.
When it comes to celiac self-care, I know that what works best for one person may not necessarily be right for someone else.
That’s why I’ve interviewed four of my fellow ambassadors—all of whom are at different stages of their celiac journeys—about how they practice self-care in their own lives.
I can’t wait to share their stories with you!