I cannot explain why, but I have been asked multiple times as of late, how best to manage both Celiac disease and Diabetes at the same time. Now the most important piece of information I can provide is that I am not a doctor and I am not able to share medically sound advice. I can only tell you about my own personal experiences and opinions.
I myself have been a Type 1 insulin dependent diabetic for 24 years now (crazy I know). I was more recently diagnosed with Celiac disease after way too many years of not knowing why my iron was so dangerously low and why I felt sick with every item of food I ingested. While I was very thankful to have finally found out what was wrong and how to fix this feeling of constant exhaustion and nausea I experienced, I was struck by the oddity of having now been diagnosed with two separate autoimmune problems. What are the chances? Why me? Don’t I already have to deal with enough medical junk? I recall asking all of those questions and more and never being given an answer. This was likely because there is no real answer available. I also remember my endocrinologist (diabetes doctor) telling me that he was not surprised to hear that I had Celiac disease because “autoimmune problems tend to travel in groups” meaning that for whatever reason it is quite common for those who have one autoimmune issue to also have other autoimmune issues.
Well….that doesn't sound very good now, does it? I didn't think so either. The only thing that I did, that I can pass on to others who are dealing with multiple autoimmune diagnoses, was to try and remember that I somehow managed to figure out how to deal with and live with diabetes, so I can do this too!
Now the “how to live with and manage Diabetes and Celiac Disease” question, as particular illnesses, unrelated to any others that people may have….I don’t have any quick fixes, solutions or magical information to share. My only recommendations are to take things one day at a time, figure out what works for you as an individual, and be prepared for good days along with bad/rough days because they are never always in one category or the other. Be prepared for unwanted suggestions, advice and ideas from those who may have good intentions, but truly have no clue what it is like to live in your shoes. And most importantly don’t be too hard on yourself, but be sure to always take of your own health. No one else can do that for you and that’s just the way it is. You are your own best advocate and if you have questions, be sure to ask them because how else can you ever possibly be expected to learn if you don’t ask the questions.
I am by no means an expert in diabetes management, but I feel confident in my own management of Type 1 Diabetes. Management of Type 2 Diabetes or Gestational Diabetes is a whole other story that I truly have no personal experience with. However I do believe that some similar principals apply: making healthy food choices, checking your blood sugars as directed by your medical team and asking questions as they come up. Now, adding in Celiac disease along with any type of diabetes can make food choices more challenging because in order to make gluten free foods taste more like “regular” foods the companies often have to add additional fats, sugars and starch laden ingredients to their products. It is important to remember that these ingredients will inevitably increase the carbohydrate (carb) count on any food, which may make you think twice about eating them. Or maybe you will choose to continue eating them anyways. It’s up to you. Your diabetes may vary. I think it is important to remember that with any dietary change for any possible reason it is just that….a change and it needs to be recognized as such. Change is hard for everyone and change involves choices and contemplation and challenging oneself to figure out the “new normal” for them.
I don’t remember who said this, but I want to quote it anyways because I like it and think it’s applicable to this post. This quote speaks volumes to me in relation to the changes involved in any new diagnosis, but in my experience in relation to the addition of Celiac disease on top of long standing Type 1 Diabetes management.
“Anything great never came without effort, patience and time. If it did, you wouldn't remember to appreciate where it came from or what went into its creation”.
All the very best to everyone and keep asking questions, they’re all important.