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Thriving with Coeliac Disease

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Here are some top tips from our Health Promotion Manager for thriving with coeliac disease..

1. Choose safe gluten-free food

Anything containing wheat, barley, rye, semolina, oats, malt, spelt, bran, triticale or brewer’s yeast is unsuitable for people with CD.

Products manufactured in New Zealand and Australia, can only be labelled ‘gluten free’ if they contain 'no detectable gluten'. Imported products must also meet FSANZ standards if they make a gluten free claim and can be removed from shelves if they do not comply.

Choosing products that carry the Crossed Grain Logo when doing grocery shopping provides assurance that a product is safe. The Crossed Grain Logo is an independent certification by Coeliac NZ that ensures the product is not only gluten free but also safe for people with CD.

2. Ensure you have a nutritious well balanced gluten free diet

Planning meals in advance helps to ensure you have a nutritious well-balanced diet.  Include foods from each of the food groups.  Rely on nutrient rich fruits and vegetables & meat, poultry, fish, nuts and whole grains that are gluten free.  Minimise salt, sugar and processed foods.

3. Eat at Dining Out Programme (DoP) approved eateries

Coeliac NZ’s Dining Out Programme provides an independent endorsement for the hospitality and catering industry to ensure gluten-free food is produced and served safely.

The programme includes training for staff, so they are knowledgeable about CD, and an independent audit to ensure the food served is coeliac-safe.

A number of restaurants, food trucks and hospitals around New Zealand have undertaken the training and are DoP accredited – visit the Coeliac NZ website for more information.

4. Move More, Sit Less

Exercise is fundamental to good physical and mental health and it’s easier to make it a habit than you might think. The most important thing to remember is that you need to start small. Choose an exercise that you’d be willing to do even if you’re tired or lacking in motivation.

5. Use Breathing Exercises to reduce anxiety

A normal breathing rate for an adult who isn’t under stress is between 12 -20 breaths per minute.  Those with coeliac disease often have increased anxiety around eating out and workplace food related activities.  Why does breathing exercise help with anxiety?  According to the University of Michigan Health, breathing exercises help put your body in a relaxed state, and when your body is relaxed your brain becomes more relaxed too.

6. Social Connections improves wellbeing - Open up to Friends, Family or Colleagues

People who connect emotionally with friends and loved ones regularly lead longer, happier, and healthier lives.  Try doing a fun activity or seeking support from your friends.  Phone, skype, zoom call or visit a friend or family member and arrange a face-to-face connection if possible whilst adhering to social distancing guidelines and tips.  Over the next few weeks, try seeking support from your friends, family or work colleagues.

7. Quality sleep is a priority

Sleep should be of top priority for all of us! Many people try to sleep as little as possible, but just as exercise and nutrition are essential for optimal health and happiness, so is sleep.   No other activity delivers so many benefits with so little effort. It has a direct correlation to the quality of our waking life.   Sleep is restorative, and without it we are not able to work, learn, create or communicate at our highest level.  Sleep loss can impair our immune functions, so by sleeping longer we can invest in strengthening our immune system.  Getting into a strict and consistent routine of going to and getting out of bed at the same time each day will have major benefits.

8. A key to receiving good healthcare is good communication

Communicating well with your healthcare provider:  GP, nurse practitioner, gastroenterologist, or dietician is so important.  Having coeliac disease and any type of long-term condition, means you might face communication problems with talking about your diagnosis or feeling embarrassed about explaining symptoms. Often your healthcare provider is lacking time, and this can be an obstacle to the patient-provider relationship.  Learning to communicate your needs will reduce future issues.

Prepare:  What is the reason for your visit?  What do you expect?  Make a written list of your concerns and questions so you don’t leave and think oh I forgot to ask/tell them that.

Be realistic:  If you have 8 different problems your health care provider won’t be able to deal with them all in one visit.  If you think you need extra time you can book a double appointment.

Take Action:  Give the health care provider the list at the start of the consult.  Allow them time to review it without talking.  Put your most important concerns at the top.  If you are seeing a different health care provider than usual, take a list of your medications and dosages.

Tips:  Some things the health care provider needs to know about your symptoms.

  • When they started i.e., yesterday, a month ago
  • Where it is located i.e., bowel pain, bloating..
  • What seems to make it worse
  • Whether you have had it before, and treatment given
  • Whether you have changed anything i.e., diet or medication that might be contributing
  • Take a copy of your symptom tracker with you

9. Ensure medications and supplements are gluten-free

If you have patients with CD you can help them by ensuring any medications they are taking are gluten free.

The active ingredient in medications is generally gluten-free, however many excipients contain starch. In most cases, the starch used in medicines is from corn, but it may be from wheat, in which case it contains gluten.

Pharmacists can help coeliac patients by checking the list of excipients on the datasheet or contacting the drug company to ensure prescribed medications do not contain gluten.

Supplements may also contain gluten so it’s important to check the ingredients list or contact the manufacturer to ensure the product is gluten-free. Note, PHARMAC will be providing a new Mylan gluten-free folic acid from 1st July onwards.

10.Become a Coeliac NZ member

Coeliac NZ is the only not-for-profit dedicated to caring for people with CD. Members receive information, advice, education, and support for living with CD. They also run local support groups and Kids Clubs run in various regions around NZ.

Visit the Coeliac NZ website to learn more about coeliac disease, Coeliac Awareness Week, and Coeliac NZ membership options.

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