Celiac disease is a digestive order that can run from one generation to another. The disease causes severe damage to the small intestines as a reaction to gliadin or a gluten protein, and results to inflammation and flattening of the lining of the small intestines.
The person with Celiac disease is unable to absorb gluten, which is a group of protein common in wheat, rye, oats and barley. Hence, the disease imposes a gluten-free diet for those who are affected. This proves to be a difficult task since gluten is the second most consumed ingredient next to sugar, and hence difficult to avoid. Also, it is difficult to monitor since some may not experience any symptoms. But already knowing that the person and his or her family are prone to the disease can provide a head start on how to mitigate the damages.
Indeed, the home is the best place to start addressing Celiac disease. A family approach to knowing the disease and understanding how it affects everyday life will provide the battle gears for coping. This is especially helpful for the children, who would need all the support and guidance they could get.
A family that eats together heals together. This can be a reasonable motto for families afflicted with the history of Celiac disease. Several measures can already be taken if these families consider carefully their eating habits. One step is taking into heart what food to buy, grow, store, prepare or eat at any time of the day. By this, it is not just about ensuring that food is gluten-free but also ensuring that the needed nutrients are sourced from other food groups.
The family can also seek help from dieticians for the information on gluten-free foods. This includes help on how to read labels that may not specify gluten but contains it nonetheless. An example is the hydrolyzed vegetable protein that may be sourced from wheat. Familiarization with these gluten-free foods may be hard at first, but with the aid of a food diary and the collective memory of the family members, it will soon be easy.
Remember also that it is not just about knowing what to avoid, but rather knowing what to eat. For example, fruits are very much encouraged since these reduce other stressors to the digestive system, such as constipation. Further, in planning what meals to prepare and what other food to stock in the kitchen, the family can treat this as an opportunity to monitor and ensure balanced nutrition and sufficient calorie intake.
But what happens when family members, especially the children, need to eat outside of the home?
Again, it is important for the family to plan ahead. Children and teens should be part of the whole process of learning about gluten-free food. To engage their interest and to ensure that they like what they eat, children and teens may be entrusted with the responsibility of choosing what gluten-free meals to prepare. In this way, they would be able to prepare for food they can either eat at home or have as packed lunch or snacks. But in cases when they have to buy food outside the home, their knowledge about gluten-free food would enable them to discriminate which meals to buy. For young children with Celiac disease, their parents can also talk to teachers about the food requirements of their children. Or talk to the parents of their children’s friends, in case they visit or sleep over at houses of their friends.
In the end, a realistic talk among family members is the best approach. Each member, especially the children and teens, needs to know the consequences of eating meals with gluten.