5 Things I’ve Learned Living With Diabetes and Celiac Disease

Adjusting to living with diabetes can be difficult. Especially when it comes to what you’re eating and how the foods you eat might impact your glucose levels. Add to that Celiac disease and food options impact your day-to-day even more. Today, we asked MiniMed Ambassador, Cara, to share what life has been like since she was diagnosed with Celiac disease.

Living with type 1 diabetes is a process. It’s something that I have known for most of my life. In fact, I recently celebrated 32 years of living with diabetes—I was diagnosed months before my fifth birthday. My memories of life before diabetes are vague, and sometimes I believe that’s a blessing. I’ve taken joy in my life in saying that I’m perfectly healthy, except for the diabetes. That changed a little over two years ago. I went in for a normal check up with my general practitioner and mentioned I’d had some unusual exhaustion. After a quick test, I discovered that my iron was extremely low. Fast forward a few months and after a round of iron pills, my doctor suggested that I be tested for Celiac disease. My iron was still low, and that wasn’t normal.

I’ve heard adults newly diagnosed with type 1 diabetes say they felt like their bodies had betrayed them. I never had that because I’ve not really known a life without it. But when my blood test came back with positive anti-bodies for Celiac disease, I felt betrayed by my body.

I went through a mourning period and then started to do my research. I was lucky enough to discover the Diabetes Online Community, or DOC, over ten years ago. Being a part of this community has led me to support, friends, and knowledge that I wouldn’t have had otherwise. I knew there had to be something like that out there for those with Celiac disease as well.

This process helped me so much. But in so many ways, diabetes and Celiac disease are diametrically opposed. While both are auto-immune diseases, and both are very much about food, they often work against each other. Diabetes has been shown to “behave” better when I eat low carb (though I don’t always do that). Gluten free foods that aren’t naturally gluten free are often higher in carbohydrates, higher in fat and higher in sugar. These things work against what I try to do with my diabetes management.

Diabetes is all about numbers. With my Medtronic CGM, I get a number every 5 minutes! It’s about A1c numbers, glucose readings, counting carbs, and calculating insulin dosages. Celiac is not. While there are periodic blood tests in a doctor’s office for the anti-bodies for Celiac (not a good thing), there’s no immediate knowledge of if you are doing things “right.”

I’m also one of many people who don’t have a noticeable reaction to gluten, so I don’t know if I’ve accidently eaten gluten. It makes it that much harder to know if I’m doing all I can to keep myself healthy.

During my first year or so, I’ve had to make some concessions and adjustments. My diabetes care has suffered at times, but I’m slowly finding a way to meld the two conditions. Some things I’ve learned? Well, here’s a list (not a complete list, but a list).

  • Sometimes, you must give a little.
  • I’m still healthy, and I can continue to be so. I just have to work a little bit harder.
  • Diabetes guilt (a.k.a. guilt over how our condition affects those around us) is a thing, but so is Celiac guilt. I’m learning that my health is more important that inconveniencing someone because I may have to adjust our location to eat dinner.
  • I’m learning that it’s better to turn down food (with the fear of offending someone), than to have my body suffer because I was trying to be polite.
  • There are just as many myths about Celiac as there are about diabetes.

The biggest thing I’ve learned is that I didn’t choose diabetes or Celiac, but I can choose how I react to these things. I do get to choose how I play the hand I’ve been dealt. I choose to be healthy. I choose to advocate. Sure, there are bad days sometimes, but no matter the health condition, tomorrow is a new day and you can start all over.

Medtronic Diabetes Continuous Glucose Monitoring (CGM) Systems

– The information provided by CGM systems is intended to supplement, not replace, blood glucose information obtained using a home glucose meter. A confirmatory fingerstick is required prior to treatment.
– Insertion of a glucose sensor may cause bleeding or irritation at the insertion site. Consult a physician immediately if you experience significant pain or if you suspect that the site is infected.

Please visit www.medtronicdiabetes.com/about/safety.html for complete safety information.

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