I waited some time to write an article about the Celiac sufferer’s spouse, mainly because I wanted more time to reflect on what to say after covering observations of others and the effects of Celiac on the body. Talking about Celiac Disease and how it affects your spouse is a delicate subject, and comes with a broad spectrum of emotion. From being overly protective of my wife to watching others around her like a hawk, Celiac changed the way I live with my spouse. I try to keep an eye on everyone and everything gluten, making sure that what she’s eating and what she’s near won’t make her sick. I get anxious, demanding and exhausted with others. I do everything I can to brighten her mood. But altogether, I am forever changed.
Understanding Celiac Disease
When we first learned of Celiac Disease, I admit, I was slow to realize the extent of the danger that surrounded us. At first, we were set on finding gluten free foods and consuming them as we would any other meal. This left us vulnerable without our knowledge. And I admittedly felt partly to blame after a year went by where Julie didn’t see vast improvements in her health. We thought it would be as simple as eat gluten free and she’ll feel great again. Unfortunately, that is the difference between an allergy and an autoimmune disorder. With an allergy, if you stay away from whatever you’re allergic to, your symptoms tend to fade away quickly. With an autoimmune disorder, you have to rid the body of the trigger, then wait for the body to adjust itself from fighting toxins to storing nutrient. It’s a long, drawn out process that takes years. If only we knew that up front.
ANY Gluten is a Problem
After learning that ANY gluten is a problem, I went into over-protective mode. When we went to restaurants, if I felt the wait staff was not entirely clear on Julie’s diet restrictions, I became overly vocal about the importance of getting the meal correct. Embarrassment transformed into confidence as we fought for her health. All of this comes at the expense of truly enjoying the experience. Now we gauge the Celiac-friendly level of a restaurant by asking for the gluten free menu up front. If we get a puzzled look or they have to go to the back for the menu, we leave. That is not a place that takes Celiac Disease seriously and is no place for a truly gluten free person. Despite the challenges, we are finding many more restaurants are learning how to accommodate safe gluten free cooking in their kitchens.
Your spouse is your rock, and has to be willing to be there for you during the good times and the bad. Celiac Disease will challenge even the most loving spouse, but don’t let that stop you from enjoying life without gluten. Your spouse doesn’t have to adopt a fully gluten free lifestyle, but learning how to manage gluten around them is vital. I make sure to wash my hands regularly, and anytime after I handle gluten to avoid contaminating any surface in the house. I keep gluten products in a separate section of the house, and limit gluten containing items to foods that only I eat, such as bagels. I dream of the day that I can purchase quality gluten free bagels for less than $5 a piece, but for now that is just a pipe dream. Someday, we’ll live in a world where gluten free products taste as good or better than their gluten containing counterparts. For now, we’re on the edge of the gluten free revolution.