Dude…how do I support my best friend who was just diagnosed with celiac disease?

how can i support my friend with celiac disease?

I have had celiac disease for (…counting fingers and toes…) over 14 years and the support I have received from family, friends, and of course this community has been incredible. And for that I am grateful. But after I received the following email, I realized that in that 14 years, none of MY friends or family have been diagnosed with celiac disease. And for that I am insanely jealous also grateful. Anyway, here is the email:

Hi there. I stumbled upon your blog today while researching how to support my best friend who was just diagnosed with celiac after a pretty acute Gastro couple months and finally gave in went to the doc did the blood work and got the news this week. What support does he need from a friend?

Now THAT is a good friend! We need more people like her in this world. My main piece of advice would just be to “be there” for him. Like any disease, getting diagnosed can be a shock to the system. And getting diagnosed with celiac, because of the overwhelming life change that must take place, can be really intense. Listen to his fears and concerns and help him off the ledge, so to speak. Like I said, it’s an overwhelming diagnosis. But it can be managed and it does get easier as time goes by. Here are some other quick tips:

Be patient. It’s a whole new world where gluten is now his enemy. He’ll need time to mourn the loss of his old life. And time to learn all he needs to know about his new life. Don’t expect him to waltz into his gluten free world without some bumps in the road.

Be strict. I remember the first few weeks after my diagnosis telling Mrs. Dude that I can’t make any promises that I won’t cheat. Well, she gave me the death stare and got her point across quite clearly. And I have never cheated…not even once. I’m not saying it has to fall on you to make sure your friend doesn’t cheat, but don’t make it easy either. Never give your approval. Never encourage him to just “take a bite” of your pizza. And if you’ve got a death stare, now is the right time to bring it out.

Be educated. As your friend is trying to digest the celiac diagnosis, it may be too much for him to learn all he needs to know. Read, read and read some more about celiac disease and gluten. There is a wealth of information out there. Know as much as you can possibly know. Knowledge is power.

Be there. He will need you now more than ever.

What about you folks? What advice would you add to this list? Thanks in advance!

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6 thoughts on “Dude…how do I support my best friend who was just diagnosed with celiac disease?”

  1. One of the best things you can do is stay upbeat. Don’t mourn with your friend. Surprise him with a shopping trip too look at gluten free foods. Point out that the produce, meat, and dairy sections (mostly around the perimeter ) are almost totally safe. Venture to the inner part of the store to find gf cookies and crackers. Help him see that is not the end of life as we know it. It is just a sharp right turn.

  2. Oh man, this person is awesome! My biggest fantasy is for my friends or family to take the effort to research, verify, and reserve a spot at a GF restaurant without prompting so that I don’t have to deal with that awkward conversation or skip eating just to hang out. Planning home meals is relatively easy once you know the basics. Social situations around food are rough.

    1. Research and host a gluten free, celiac friendly dinner party, one of the sad things is feeling like you can’t ask others to cook for you or enjoy social eating events anymore. I’m basically planning on hosting a lot or bring food to most things … for the rest of my life. I’d love for someone else to make the effort to safely host me for dinner. I know that’s not easy but definitely possible

  3. I would add, on the emotional side, do your best to validate your friend’s experience any time he shares with you how he’s doing. Don’t try to change how he’s feeling; let him know you’re in it with him, no matter where he’s at.

  4. I would definitely avoid situations where he has to deal with pot luck meals where none of the options are gluten free, aside from the dish he contributes. Nothing sucks worse than hearing, “What did you think of my (non-GF dish)? You didn’t have any?! Oh, that’s riiiiiiiiight. I forgot. You can’t have it”. It sucks because he’ll likely feel excluded. And when you hear a mutual acquaintance make ignorant comments about his new dietary restrictions, stand up to that person and tell them that their comments aren’t acceptable.

    Focus more energy on what he can still do instead of his new dietary restrictions. Instead of giving him gift baskets containing products that will make him sick, ask him what grocery stores he likes to shop at and look for gift cards from those stores. You won’t have to worry about getting something he can’t eat or doesn’t like, because he can get whatever he decides he wants.

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Who I am. And who I'm not.

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I AM someone who's been gluten-free since 2007 due to a diagnosis of severe celiac disease. I'm someone who can steer you in the right direction when it comes to going gluten-free. And I'm someone who will always give you the naked truth about going gluten free.

I AM NOT someone who embraces this gluten-free craziness. I didn’t find freedom, a better life or any of that other crap when I got diagnosed. With all due respect to Hunter S. Thompson, I found fear and loathing of an unknown world. But if I can share my wisdom, tell my stories and make the transition easier on you, I’ve done my job.

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