This is the question I hear over and over from people who have been newly diagnosed with celiac disease, or who’ve been put on a gluten-free, sometimes additionally dairy-free, diet. “How long does it take to start seeing changes … to start feeling better?”
I believe the honest answer is … it is different for each person. But this is so nebulous and can feel so hollow to hear that answer, especially if you’ve been searching for a long time. Here are some points to think about that may help make the “feeling better” process feel more defined for you. PHACIT (a Daily Forage original, pronounced “face-it”).
Be Patient. This is key right now. And can be very difficult at times. Be patient with yourself while so many changes are occurring. Results vary for each person and diagnosis, but often obvious positive outcomes occur within one to two months of being gluten-free. Sometimes you may see earlier results. It takes time for your body to purge the toxins. Perhaps your physician gave you some time guidelines for expected results. If not, don’t hesitate to ask for some.
Be Honest. Acknowledging your honest feelings about this new “diet” and lifestyle, and your expectations for its outcome can be tough, and fluctuating, and a process. Allow yourself to feel whatever it is you are honestly feeling, and share these feelings with your support system, your physician, and your nutritionist if you have one. This will help them understand what you are really dealing with, and they’ll be better able to help meet your needs.
Also be honest with yourself about your expectations for being gluten-free. Of course you want to feel better, but are you really willing to give it your very best effort? Or are you saying to yourself, “This is too much. I can’t do this for the rest of my life.” It can be overwhelming having to do a major overhaul in your diet and lifestyle. Possibly you’re hoping this really won’t be the answer because this is tough in the beginning. Realize and accept that your feelings will fluctuate. Some experiences and days will be easier, and some will be more difficult, than others. When you understand this, the process will become smoother. The learning curve of being gluten-free is steep, particularly in the beginning, but the more you learn, understand, and acknowledge, the easier it becomes. And when the results of better health start becoming apparent, the benefits begin to outweigh the effort.
Ask others for support while you’re learning this new process. Ask family and friends to be patient and understanding because this is new to everyone. Ask your local gluten-free store staff for suggestions about worthwhile products. Ask your nutritionist for meal-planning advice. Don’t be afraid to ask those tough or embarrassing questions. Chances are many of us have heard them before. Like, “Why are my bowels so different now?” Chances are you’ll be answering them for someone else in the gluten-free world someday. And don’t ever hesitate to ask questions of your physician.
Be Consistent with your approach. It is all-important to be consistent in your gluten-free diet. Following your physician’s prescription for dietary changes, and nutritional supplements, can essentially make-or-break your gluten-free efforts producing pure and accurate results. Each time gluten is consumed, the body is re-introduced to the toxins that are potentially causing your illness. Veering off the diet, even just a little bit, may require you to restart the purging process again. This brings us back to being patient. Make the trial period that your physician recommends really work for you so you are both confident in the outcomes.
Identify your resources. Knowledge is power … so identify resources that are helpful. Reach out for ideas, support, and information that will help you stay focused, patient, and consistent in your journey. When we feel empowered, then we are able to steer our destiny … instead of feeling helpless while it steers us. (See our link to helpful resources at "So You're Gluten-Free … Now What?".
Time. Early on in the journey, being gluten-free can be a real time-drain. It takes longer to read product labels, figure out meals, grocery shop, find “safe” restaurants for dining out, and locate valuable and reliable resources, etc. As your understanding and familiarity with all these new aspects increase, the time-drain will diminish.
And let’s face it, when we don’t feel well, we don’t perform well. This creates a time-drain as well. When a gluten-free diet begins the healing process, the benefits of more energy, better performance, and clearer thinking occur, whereby providing more productivity in less time. Essentially, this gives us more time.