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Tips for newly diagnosed celiacs

by on May 24, 2015

Introducing Celiac Awareness Month guest blogger Lisa Cantkier, holistic nutritionist and celiac specializing in food allergies and special diets!

I became very sick at about 18 months old and suffered from unexplained chronic diarrhea, following eating. I had severe weight loss, was malnourished and was failing to thrive. I became very sick and my parents took me to every specialist under the sun to find out why I was so ill. Eventually, I was hospitalized and misdiagnosed with terminal cancer (the source of the cancer was unknown) and I was given a few weeks to live.

While I was in hospital, a banana ended up saving my life—literally. I chose to eat it one day and it was the first time in months that food hadn’t made me sick! Luckily, the nurses and doctors suspected the cause of my illness was food. This led to a bowel biopsy which confirmed celiac disease. I began following a gluten-free diet and got well fairly quickly.

Growing up gluten-free back in the 80’s was difficult to say the least. There was a true lack of support, gluten-free products (there was only one manufacturer in Canada), recipes and cookbooks. The internet did not yet exist and of course, nor did social media. But, my family learned to cope and so did I.

Living with celiac disease today is so much easier in comparison to when I was growing up.

Here are five tips to help make things even easier:

1. Join a local celiac support group!
You will be amazed by how much you can learn from the many non-profit support groups available. Make an effort to attend workshops and events—you’ll make new friends and have fun.

2. Monitor your nutrients!
I do my best to monitor various nutrient levels about every six months, especially vitamin B12 and iron. I continue to take various supplements that my body needs, on the advice of my naturopath.

3. Eat clean!
Avoid gluten-containing grains and sugar, as well as hidden sources!
I try to maintain a healthy diet and lifestyle the best I can—I reach for clean, whole, unprocessed foods and steer clear of refined sugar and grains as much as possible. Get an ingredient dictionary to better understand what you are and are not allowed.

4. Learn to prevent cross-contamination.
This concept is can be a learning curve, but you need to start somewhere. According to the Canadian Celiac Association, “Anywhere you see crumbs is a potential place for cross-contamination.” For example, counter tops, cutting boards, microwaves, toaster ovens and margarine containers and containers with other spreads can be major culprits. Get your own toaster and cutting board. Boil, bake, fry and cook separately. Having your food (especially protein sources) cooked on foil when dining out will help with prevention of cross contamination.

5. Try new recipes.
There are so many delicious, healthy gluten-free, grain-free and Paleo recipes available online, thanks to gluten-free food bloggers, chefs and cookbook authors that take the time to share their creations. Take the time to try out new recipes that look appealing, and have fun with it!

Lisa Cantkier is a holistic nutritionist and a lifelong celiac who specializes in food allergies and special diets. For more information, visit

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