It’s the end of May, and the end of Celiac Awareness Month. To wrap up the awareness month, I wanted to share the Celiac Sprue Association’s (CSA) Gluten Free Self-Management Plan. I followed this plan when I was diagnosed and switched to a gluten free lifestyle. You can read the CSA’s plan in detail on their website here: http://www.csaceliacs.info/self_management.jsp and I recommend that you consult your dietitian before implementing your plan to discuss with them. This article is meant as a way to share my personal experience, and hopefully bring more awareness to the CSA as a resource.
Building a solid foundation of a gluten free diet is the first step of self-management. You’ll want to approach this step after being diagnosed or if you think you may have some the symptoms of Celiac or gluten sensitivity. During this stage, you eliminate all food that contain gluten, and begin learning what foods you can eat, what contains gluten, and any supplements you may need. It is also a great time to find support groups local to your area, and to find communities online. When I began, I developed a good dialogue with my doctors, and looked into local gluten free events where I could join a community. I also brought gluten free topics into my blog (which at that point had been a mix of recipes and technology topics).
After your diet and health are under control, you can begin looking into how to expand your diet. For me I remember this period of time taking about 6 months before I felt a lot better and was brave enough and comfortable enough to expand my diet. Six months is what worked for me, but that amount of time would be different for each person. Discuss with your doctor and use personal judgment to figure out the best plan for you. Once you’re ready to expand your diet, you should start learning more about how food is made, and what is involved in processing food. This is where I got a resource called The Essential Gluten-Free Grocery Guide which was extremely useful when learning what food I could and could not buy in the grocery store.
Once you have become experienced with expanding your diet, and feel comfortable with a gluten free lifestyle, this is where you’ll be able to maintain a diet, and have the ability to experiment with foods as you please.