If someone near and dear to you has recently entered the gluten free life, you may be wondering how you can best support them.
For many, it can be a tough lifestyle change. So many things contain gluten that a non-gluten intolerant person takes for granted. At the outset, all of the sudden changes can prove challenging.
We’ve put together this handy guide of Dos and Don’ts when it comes to supporting the GF people in your life.
Do: Educate Yourself
Familiarize yourself with what it means to have celiac disease or to be gluten intolerant. There’s a wealth of knowledge at your fingertips thanks to the world wide web and you should take full advantage of it. Understanding what they’re dealing with is a simple and thoughtful way to show your support for the gluten free people in your life.
Don’t: Question the Legitimacy of Their Diet
This is the first big “no, no” to avoid. In addition to all the new challenges your GF person is experiencing, they don’t need your doubt on top of it.
Expressing doubts about the legitimacy of their diet or diagnosis will put you in the “untrustworthy” category, where they can’t be certain you won’t inadvertently expose them to gluten through carelessness or disbelief. Don’t be that guy.
The gluten free person in your life may need to vent or otherwise share their feelings about their diet and the things they experience as a result.
Listen to them. Don’t interject with versions of, “it’s not so bad,” or “it will get better.” As well-meant and positive as these statements may be, they are often heard as invalidation or a brushing off of their frustration.
Don’t: Offer Advice
Unless you’re also living a gluten-free life and have some relevant information to add to the conversation, don’t offer any well-meaning-but-probably-unhelpful input.
Just listen, be there, educate yourself, and I promise your special gluten free someone will love you for it.
Do: Make Your Home a Safe Space
One of the greatest anxieties a person on a gluten-free diet faces is becoming ill over contact with gluten. Social gatherings in new restaurants or dinner parties with friends can be incredibly stressful for them.
Make an effort to make your home one of the places they don’t have to worry about. Make it clear that you take their diet seriously, and if you prepare any food for them, communicate clearly about how it was prepared and that you were diligent in being certain their food was not contaminated.
Don’t: Take Things Personally
However, if you do make this effort and your friend or loved one still opts to bring their own food, don’t take it personally.
It’s far more important that they feel safe and avoid falling ill than it is for your ego to be soothed.
Let them know that you have taken steps to ensure that food prepared in your home is safe, but you understand if they’d still rather bring their own. Safety first.
Do: Let Them Pick Where to Eat
Many gluten-free people have a small list of places they trust and can enjoy a meal in without fear.
If you’re going out, let them pick the place. They’ll know they can have a good time without the anxiety of getting sick, and you may discover some cool new places you haven’t tried before.
Don’t: Act Burdened
Don’t act as if their allergy is a burden or an inconvenience to you.
Most, if not all, would happily choose to live life eating anything they want and not worrying about being poisoned if they come in to contact with gluten. It’s much more of a bummer for them than it is for you.
It may take a little extra thought and care, but for those we love, being supportive is a piece of (gluten-free) cake.
We’d love to hear about your own experiences in the comments! What are some things that were helpful (or not so helpful) when you or someone you know began their journey in to the gluten free life?