Since Coeliac Disease involves inflammation, it makes sense to introduce lifestyle measures to reduce the inflammation in your body. Changing to a strictly GF diet is the first and most important step.
Other suggestions are:
- Regular exercise that you enjoy. This can be as simple as a daily walk around your neighbourhood. Setting a pace that makes it difficult to talk is a good guide to the intensity that this walk should be. It’s great if you can walk with a friend or family member for motivation and relationship building.
- High intensity exercise and weight training is also recommended for reducing stress and inflammation. Always check with your doctor before commencing any strenuous exercise program.
- Yoga is proven to reduce inflammation and the stress response in people who regularly practice. Yoga can be practiced in a class environment, or there are many video classes available online.
- Staying hydrated – Drinking enough water is vital to maintaining good health. Aim for at least 1.5 litres per day. This includes herbal teas, and non-caffeinated beverages.
- Mindful eating – This means that you have your full attention on what you are eating, and you are savouring every mouthful. No television, no smartphones. Look at your food, smell it. Chew each mouthful thoroughly before swallowing. Have your attention fully focused on the meal that you are eating. This improves digestion and allows you to absorb more nutrients from your food.
Meditation has its own heading as there is lots of research underway that supports daily meditation to reduce stress, inflammation and improve brain health. Some studies have involved measuring cortisol levels in the body, which are an indicator of increased stress, and have shown that regular meditation reduces cortisol levels and other inflammatory markers.
There are also visible effects of meditation increasing the grey matter in the brain, measurable on MRI scan, which is exciting many researchers. This improvement in brain structure is possibly why health benefits are seen in regular meditators.
The best results have been seen in people who practice daily for around half an hour, however even just 15 minutes per day is very beneficial. Where meditation used to be very much in the ‘alternative’ domain, these days it has become mainstream. It’s even being introduced into some schools and workplaces as it’s been shown to improve productivity and concentration.
Here’s an example of a simple body scan meditation:
- Find a comfortable seat, either on a chair or lounge, or on the floor. Close your eyes and take some time to settle, so that you aren’t fidgeting.
- During this meditation time, resist the urge to scratch an itch, or to move the body in any way (unless you are in pain of course), as this provides distraction. You will find that as you regularly practice, these urges will disappear.
- Start to notice your breath. Observe and visualise your body breathing in and out, slow down your breathing, and allow it to naturally deepen.
- Then start your body scan, relaxing each part of your body as you move through. Firstly, bring your attention to the crown of your head, and observe how it feels, and relax it. Slowly bring your focus to your forehead, and your left eye, your right eye, and so on through each part of your face, relaxing as you go. Then visualise your whole face as one. Move down to your neck and one shoulder, and continue down your arm. Then move across to your other shoulder, and down your arm, visualising each individual part of your arm, hand and fingers. Next, move through the front of your torso, and down one leg, all the way through your knee and foot. Then start at the other leg, from the hip, and also work your way down the other leg.
Finish the body scan with your back, and the back of the head, finishing back at the crown of your head. Then simply bring your attention back to your breath, coming in and out of your body.
- Use a timer (such as the one on your smartphone) so that you don’t lose track of time, and you don’t have to keep opening your eyes to look at a clock. And just focus on your breath until the time is up.
Start with just 5 minutes a day for the first week, and then increase it by 5 minutes every week, to the length of time that suits your lifestyle. There are some great apps to keep you on track. Try ‘Smiling Mind’, a free Australian app that is designed for non-meditators to help them start to meditate.
Meditation can be done virtually anywhere – in the shower, on the train/bus, sitting in your lounge room, wherever you can find a short burst of time in fact. There’s no need to feel limited by having to sit or be alone.
- Stay in self contained apartment so you can cook for yourself.
- If you’re going somewhere where English isn’t the first language, before you go, type the following into Google Translate:
“I need a strictly gluten free meal please. I may become very sick if I eat food that has had contact with wheat, rye, barley or oats. For example, please do not cook my gluten free pasta in water that has had gluten pasta in it, and don’t use oil that has had wheat food fried in it such as anything crumbed. Please tell me if you can’t guarantee this.”
Then print out multiple copies so you can hand it to the wait staff or even the chef so that it’s clear what you need.
- There is a free app called ‘Find Me Gluten Free’ which lists businesses all over the world that serve gluten free food. This is great for travelling.
- Always carry some emergency GF snacks in your bag as a contingency, in case GF food simply isn’t available to you during the day.
- Check out social media in the area that you’re in. Searching hashtags for key words such as #glutenfreelondon or searching for local blogs can be really useful to find local GF eateries or grocery shops.
- Listen to your body. You may know the warning signs that you’ve eaten gluten, so tune in when eating new foods while travelling as this could be the difference between a small upset or a few days stuck in your hotel room.
- Pack your Toastbags as they can be used in restaurants or your hotel room toaster.