Being diagnosed with coeliac disease can come as a relief to many people – they finally have an explanation for how they have been feeling.
For others, being coeliac can come out of the blue and it can be a little harder to start following the gluten free diet. Getting some good advice on a gluten free diet will help you to get off to a good start and help you to manage the changes to your usual way of eating.
One of the most important places to start is with a qualified dietitian. You will have a lifelong relationship with your dietitian as you learn to manage your coeliac disease so find one you like! Ask your GP to refer you to a dietitian or you can find qualified dietitians listed in the ‘find a dietitian’ section of the Irish Nutrition and Dietetic Institute’s website. If your dietitian is a member of the INDI, then they are recognised by health insurers and many will let you claim back at least part of your fees.
Start by having a first consultation with your dietitian. She or he will go through the gluten-free diet with you. This can take a while as there is quite a lot to take in at the start. Your dietitian will also check your weight and any blood tests you have had. They may also send you for other blood tests to check levels of vitamins and minerals. Your dietitian will also show you to manage situationslike eating out, avoiding gluten contamination at home and how to read food labels (this can be trickier than you think!)
Research into coeliac disease and the gluten free diet is still going on so there are regular updates. This is one of the reasons you need to check in with your dietitian at least once a year. You also need to have blood levels of certain vitamins and minerals checked every year and have a bone scan (dexa scan) every 2 years or so. Your dietitian will also be able to check that you are getting all of the vitamins and minerals you need to avoid problems like anaemia, constipation and osteoporosis which can be an issue for people with coeliac disease.
Taking care of your coeliac disease means avoiding gluten and looking after your diet and getting some expert advice, especially at the start, will help you to stay healthy and well.