That some people with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity have to deal with family members that don’t or won’t believe their diagnosis may come as a surprise to many of us. But it doesn’t surprise my friend Hannah (not her real name).

Hannah was diagnosed with celiac disease 10 years ago. She has been following a strict gluten-free diet ever since. Unfortunately, it has not always been easy for her to eat gluten-free when visiting family members.

She has had to deal with everything from being asked if she would grow out of celiac disease, to being told not to expect anything special to be cooked for her, to wheat being added to her food just to see if she would get sick.

Fortunately, things have improved over the years. Some of the same family members that gave my friend such a difficult time have themselves been diagnosed with celiac disease or had immediate family members diagnosed. It is always the most difficult for the trailblazer!

If you are dealing with family reluctant to accept your dietary needs, Hannah suggests the following:

Cook for them. This allows your family to taste how good gluten-free meals can be. As Hannah says, “Gluten-free food doesn’t have to taste bad it just has to be prepared carefully.”

Show them articles in the popular press—magazines, newspapers, this blog—about celiac disease, gluten sensitivity, and the gluten-free diet. They are more likely to believe what they read from these sources than what you tell them.

If they are receptive to learning more about why you can’t eat gluten, keep the information you provide simple and patiently answer any questions they have.

It also is important to keep in mind, as my co-author Eve Adamson wrote in The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Gluten-Free Eating, “…it’s okay if other people don’t understand your dietary restrictions. Rather than expecting others to make allowances for you (although they often will) take your health into your hands. You’re doing this for you. And that’s great.”

In a practical sense, this means bringing at least some of your own food or doing some grocery shopping when visiting family. Also, as Hannah suggests, cook for your family. Offer to be in charge of cooking dinner. It’s a win-win situation. Your family will be thrilled because they don’t have to cook and you will be thrilled because you’ll know the food is gluten free.

Copyright © by Tricia Thompson, MS, RD

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Dealing with family members