Self-care tips for teens living with celiac disease

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Being diagnosed with celiac disease and navigating the strict gluten-free diet can be tough. Learn how incorporating self-care activities into your routine can help you reduce stress, manage symptoms and build resilience.

Key points

  • Self-care is taking action to protect and improve your physical, mental and emotional health and wellness.
  • Self-care can look different for everyone. For someone with celiac disease, self-care involves doing things for your general well-being and to help prevent gluten exposure.
  • Self-care is not selfish! Wellness is a shared responsibility.

What is self-care?

Self-care means taking action to protect or improve your physical, mental and emotional health and wellness. Many resources focus on individual self-care strategies, but it's important to remember that wellness is a shared responsibility. This page includes ways to care for yourself as an individual, as well as ways for your family and friends to help and support you.

Celiac disease and self-care

Self-care can look different for everyone. For a person with celiac disease, self-care involves:

  • doing things for your general well-being
  • developing habits to help prevent gluten exposure
  • having a plan for how you will recover after an exposure to gluten

Following a strict gluten-free diet can be difficult and sometimes feel lonely, frustrating and exhausting. Incorporating routine self-care activities can help you reduce stress, manage symptoms and build resilience (the ability to adapt to and navigate something difficult or stressful).

Here are ten self-care practices you may want to try:

  1. Include movement in your day. Getting at least 30 minutes of physical activity can help you boost your mood and improve your health. This can be any kind of movement. For example, you might join your school's sports team, go for a walk with your family or dance to your favourite music in your bedroom.
  2. Eat well-balanced, regular meals and snacks. Having meals and snacks that incorporate fruits and vegetables, a protein source and a gluten-free whole grain can improve your energy levels and nourish your body.
  3. Prepare gluten-free meals and snacks in advance so that you have safe gluten-free options available when you need them. This can help you focus on having fun at events or hangouts instead of worrying about whether you will have safe food options.
  4. Get a good night's sleep! Sleep is important for brain health and development and for keeping up your energy levels. Stick to a regular bedtime and create a relaxing nighttime routine that involves removing devices (tablets, phones, etc.) at least one hour before bed.
  5. Advocate for yourself. Self-advocacy means speaking up for yourself, supporting yourself and making decisions that are in your best interest. Try using the MyHealth 3 Sentence Summary to practise summarizing and communicating your health needs or important information to others, including your health-care team, teachers and peers.
  6. Be mindful. Mindfulness is paying attention to what's happening in the present moment in the mind, body and external environment with curiosity and kindness. It can help you steady your emotions and find out what you need. Mindfulness can also help build self-compassion, gratitude and resilience. See Mindfulness meditations for celiac disease for guided meditations that can help you relax, focus on your thoughts and cope with pain and stress related to managing celiac disease.
  7. Practise gratitude. Practising gratitude is another way to be mindful. Remind yourself of the daily things that you are grateful for and write them down at night or get into a routine of saying them out loud before bed.
  8. Stay connected. Surround yourself with friends and family who understand you and your celiac disease needs and who will help advocate for you. Reach out to them when you need to talk.
  9. Give yourself permission to say no. Sometimes self-care involves saying no to activities or events that do not serve you well.
  10. Create a self-care plan for when you are accidentally exposed to gluten. Note the symptoms you experience when exposed to gluten and brainstorm ways to help you feel better. This might be wearing comfy clothes, taking a bubble bath or using a heating pad. You may also want to work with your parents or caregivers to make sure you have easy-to-digest gluten-free foods (e.g., gluten-free plain crackers or bread, white rice, potatoes, bananas) and fluids (e.g., water, broths, peppermint tea) on hand. Communicate your self-care plan to your family or friends so they know how to best support you when you are accidentally exposed to gluten.

Remember, self-care is not selfish! Incorporating routine self-care activities can help protect and maintain your health and well-being.

Last updated: October 11th 2023