Q and A: Reading Labels

Initially, a person with celiac disease may find reading labels daunting and time-consuming — but it does get better.

Q: I just found out I have celiac disease, and it seems as though I have to spend hours at the grocery store reading labels. Does it ever get any easier?

A: Yes, it does get easier. You have a lot of new information to assimilate, but it’s knowledge that will serve you forever. I highly recommend seeking out a dietitian who specializes in celiac disease to get a handle on the details. Most people with celiac disease will need to see a registered dietitian only two or three times — after that, they’ll understand exactly what they need to do to live a gluten-free life. Also, check out the natural-foods aisle at your supermarket. Thanks to an increasing awareness of celiac disease, most mainstream grocery stores now offer a variety of gluten-free foods that are conveniently labeled. Specific grocery stores that concentrate on healthy fare, such as Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s, have an even broader selection. If it’s tough to find gluten-free products in your area, you can certainly shop online. The Gluten-Free Mall (www.glutenfreemall.com) offers a wide selection of gluten-free products, and Bob’s Red Mill (www.bobsredmill.com), Arrowhead Mills (www.arrowheadmills.com), and Udi’s (www.udisglutenfree.com) sell a variety of gluten-free grains, baking mixes, and/or breads. Even mainstream sites like Amazon now sell an abundance of gluten-free goods.

If you’re struggling emotionally with the transition to a gluten-free lifestyle, you might find it helpful to talk with a psychologist or counselor. Some people need time to mourn the loss of their favorite foods or their vision of themselves as indestructible. One or two sessions with a professional can mean the difference between fighting the change and embarking on a journey of discovery. Read everything, join a celiac-disease support group (in person or online), befriend your health-care professionals, and don’t be afraid to ask questions. In addition, there are many wonderful resources to help you and those you love with celiac disease, regardless of whether the disease was diagnosed last week or ten years ago. Be sure to check out some of my gluten-free recipes here. In addition, below you’ll find a few more informative Web sites for people with celiac.

  1. The National Foundation for Celiac Awareness (www.celiaccentral.org). This site offers a plethora of resources, including printable information on gluten-free foods, medications, and other topics, along with recipes and frequently asked questions that have been answered by registered dietitians.
  2. The Celiac Disease Foundation (www.celiac.org). This is a great resource, especially as a launching pad for people who have recently been diagnosed with celiac disease.
  3. Celiac.com (www.celiac.com). The best feature on this site is the online forum with message boards in which families affected by celiac disease can exchange information on gluten-free products and strategies for coping with the disease, among other subjects.

Get 6 Tips for Healthy Eating with Celiac Disease.