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The Importance of Emotional Wellbeing in Celiac Disease

Today, I am sharing a near and dear topic to me, the importance of balancing our emotional well being along with our physical health.  I’ve turned to Sherry Scheideman, a Registered Clinical Counsellor, to highlight the emotional toll that celiac disease can have on an individual so that we can become empowered to make change!  Read below for Sherry’s introductory post.  We look forward to highlighting more work from her.

I’m a celiac and I’m a counsellor. I’m grateful to Selena for noting in her blog that mental health care is an essential part of looking after ourselves as celiacs.

As Selena notes, the mind and the body are intimately connected. If the body hurts, the mind is likely to hurt too. If the mind hurts, it will affect the body. Our most effective healing will happen when we address both the mind and the body at the same time.

I became a counsellor because I have personally experienced anxiety, depression, exhaustion, anger, grief, and other emotional and social challenges due to having undiagnosed celiac disease, and then being diagnosed and going on a gluten-free diet. I was really helped by counselling, and in the process I was motivated to learn how to help others.

The Connection Between Celiac Disease and Emotional Well-Being

The emotional issues that we face as celiacs spring from many sources. For example, as an undiagnosed celiac, I experienced a lot of anxiety because my gut was sending out distress signals, and my body wasn’t absorbing nutrition properly. I didn’t know or understand what was going on – I just felt anxious.

Another source of our emotional issues is wishing we didn’t have the disease, or feeling like it’s not fair or like it’s wrecking our lives. This resistance leads to anger, resentment, frustration, desperation, blame, shame, and so on.

Yet another source of emotional trauma for us is our real grief at losing our favourite foods and drinks, and having our social life (which is usually very food-centered) forever changed. C

How Counselling Can Help You Manage a Celiac Diagnosis

Counselling can help you deal with any or all of the above issues. It can help you process difficult emotions so they no longer dominate your life, and it can help you accept and enjoy your life as it is, celiac disease and all. Counselling can also help you gain the knowledge, skills, and support you need to set and maintain the unique social boundaries that the gluten-free diet requires. We need these skills and this support as we learn to say no to friendly offers of food, to ask questions to determine if food is safe, and so on. Having celiac disease can be very stressful. Counselling can help you reduce this stress.

Celiac disease can present us with many challenges but we have many opportunities to embrace our lives as a celiac and to improve our well-being.  I can say without a doubt that both nutritional counselling and mental counselling are imperative for a happy life as a individual living with celiac disease.

Learn More About Sherry and Her Services: 


Strategies for Improved Digestive Health That Don’t Involve An Elimination Diet

low FODMAP pasta

Today’s post is a guest post from my colleague, Stephanie Clairmont RD, who specializes in the low FODMAP diet.  Elimination diets are all the rage right now to control unwanted symptoms.  However, before embarking on that route, we can sometimes modify the diet in small ways that add up to big changes in the way we feel.  So, before even looking to take something out of your diet, you may want to try adding in the top five strategies that Stephanie has highlighted below!

Elimination diets get a lot of attention for being the key to successfully managing your Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). Symptoms like gas, bloating, abdominal pain, diarrhea and constipation are annoying, uncomfortable, and can really interfere with your day to day life. IBS symptoms can be really disruptive and affect your life on so many levels, so learning how to successfully manage them is really important for getting your quality of life back.

The Low FODMAP diet is a popular elimination diet in the world of IBS. Have you heard of it? This elimination diet is starting to get more and more attention in media, so if you haven’t heard of it yet, I’m sure you will soon.

I have focused my professional practice on using this diet along with other strategies to help my clients with IBS and digestive health issues, and along with a real plan it has really given my clients their lives back!

Here’s the thing… an elimination diet is TOUGH and actually very restrictive. They are not meant to be followed for very long. The Low FODMAP diet is no exception. Initially, you will have to cut out many common, everyday foods that you may love. After a few weeks you will slowly add them back in, but that first phase can be really challenging as it affects the way you cook, eat out and live every day.

Despite their challenges, elimination diets are definitely worth all the effort, and that’s why in my program I really help my clients stick to a plan that gets them the quickest, most effective results so they can get back to living their lives as soon as possible.

For many people with digestive issues, there are other strategies that can help as well. It’s important to remember that food is not the enemy or the cause of symptoms. Food is a trigger of symptoms under conditions when other factors (like stress) are also out of whack.

The truth is, the Low FODMAP diet on its own is not a cure or a stand-alone answer to digestive symptoms like gas, bloating, discomfort, diarrhea and/or constipation… there are other strategies you can implement before turning to an elimination diet that may be able to help you get your gut happy again!

Here are the top five strategies I find most helpful in relieving IBS and digestive distress.

Strategies to Provide Real Relief and Aid in Digestion

1. Cut Caffeine

Caffeine is a gut stimulant which causes our digestive system to process food faster. If you already have a problem with your meals moving through you too quickly, it would definitely be worth cutting back on your caffeine intake or trying to eliminate it completely to see if it has any positive effects on your symptoms. Having a tea in place of one of your coffees, or trying half-caf if you can’t handle going straight to decaf are two of the strategies I have used effectively with my clients.

2. Cook Your Veggies

Ever found you have a tummy ache after you eat a giant salad for lunch? Don’t worry, this is pretty normal. As healthy as veggies are, raw vegetables are actually really challenging to break down and digest by the body. So instead of eating huge bowls of raw greens, focus on including more cooked vegetables or smoothies to give your gut a break. This small change may significantly reduce your symptoms while ensuring you don’t miss out on a lot of important nutrients and fibre.

3. Swap Sulphurous Vegetables

Aside from being high in FODMAPs, which are poorly digested sugars, sulphurous vegetables like onions, garlic, cauliflower, asparagus, Brussel sprouts and broccoli are known for being gas-causing. It’s best to limit these vegetables and choose non-sulphurous veggies more often. What are some less gassy vegetables? Include fennel, bell pepper, carrots, parsnips, tomatoes, cucumber, eggplant and zucchini instead!

4. Fat Free Isn’t the Answer

A moderate amount of fat in your diet is key, so don’t go cutting it out or trying to eat low fat if you’ve heard that it can be hard on your system. It’s true, too much fat can cause symptoms (especially diarrhea) since it takes such a long time to digest. Include moderate amounts of fat in your diet, and try to spread it out throughout your day instead of having one really high fat meal and eating lower fat for the rest of the day. For example, if you were to go out to eat and order a burger with fries and a milkshake, that would likely be a lot of fat you’d dump into your system at once. Instead, choose one of those foods, the one you’re craving most, and have lower fat alternatives in place of the other two to round out your meal.

5. Mind Your Beverages

Alcohol is a histamine containing food, which can increase inflammation. This increased inflammation can lead to muscle spasms and stimulation of the digestive tract. Not good for your symptoms! It’s best to completely avoid alcohol during periods of symptom flares. If you still want to consume alcohol, do so with food to make it a little easier on your system.

Carbonated beverages can also be problematic. The gas pumped into these beverages isn’t doing you any favours in terms of your symptoms.

In my practice over the years, I’ve seen clients with all kinds of digestive issues and I know that an elimination diet like the the Low FODMAP diet can be part of real relief, but it also doesn’t have to be, it’s not the only answer. If you are experiencing digestive health issues like gas, bloating, abdominal distension, diarrhea, constipation or anything else, make sure you first talk to your doctor about getting testing done and then make sure you work with a dietitian who will give you the right support while keeping you well.

The Low FODMAP diet is not to be followed on your own, with just a food list and a prayer. Elimination diets are serious business. Please take care of yourself, my friend, and let me know if I can be of any help!

Much love,


Stephanie Clairmont, MHSc, RD is a Registered Dietitian who has helped thousands of people just like herself overcome symptoms of IBS and get back to feeling normal again. To learn more about Stephanie’s approach to digestive health, visit www.StephanieClairmont.com

5 Ways to Show Support for May’s Celiac Awareness Month

celiac disease

Did you know that May is celiac awareness month?  This is the time where we can spread the word about the impact of celiac disease and the importance of the gluten free diet.

In honor of May, there are a few events (online and locally) that I would like to share with you all!

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Community Question: Celiac, Food Allergies and Fatigue – Part One

food sensitivities, celiac

For any of us who experience digestive health concerns,  we are all so familiar with the daily ups and downs with energy and the constant questioning of additional foods that are making us feel unwell.

If you are celiac, removing gluten in it’s entirety is needed.  But, what happens if we still feel unwell? Unfortunately, the research is slim when it comes to individuals with celiac disease and increased risk of additional food allergies (note, this is not the same as a sensitivity). However, there  are multiple factors that can effect how we feel, which have nothing to do with additional food allergies or sensitivities and, is very commonly, overlooked.

Below are the strategies I use with my clients before we may start looking to additional food culprits.

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Top 30 Healthy, Gluten Free Convenience Foods in the Supermarket

The increase in gluten free foods in the supermarket has made it so much easier for celiacs and the gluten sensitive to find suitable foods to eat.  However, many of these products are overly processed and offer little nutritional value to the gluten free diet.

Fiber rich foods are very important when it comes to eating gluten free.  Typically, when an individual transitions to a gluten free diet, they start eating many gluten free products such as breads, cookies, baked goods, pastas and rice which offer very little to no fiber.  Subsequently, overall fiber intake drops.  Long term risks of a low fiber intake can contribute to ongoing digestive problems such as constipation and contribute to the development of additional  health conditions such as type two diabetes, weight management problems, mood imbalances such as depression, cancer, high cholesterol and more.

Read below where I highlight 30 healthy gluten free foods that are high in fiber and also taste delicious (in no particular order)!

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Real Life Advice from a Dietitian Living with Celiac Disease