Celiac, Auto-immune disease, & Mental Health: Managing Challenges

By: Donna Gibbs

October is Celiac Disease Awareness Month. I have numerous friends who wrestle with the symptoms and limitations of celiac disease, a serious autoimmune disorder. In those with Celiac disease, the ingestion of gluten leads to an immune response that attacks the small intestine. If you have celiac, then gluten robs you of life satisfaction. Gluten creates risky health complications. Gluten is downright dangerous. 

I too have an autoimmune disease that requires my omitting gluten. It’s not fun. It’s not my choice. I’d much rather enjoy homemade biscuits, a hot loaf of bread from Carrabba’s, or a fresh-made doughnut from my favorite local bakery. But I can’t. I haven’t had that pleasure in years. For me, ingesting gluten would be irresponsible. It would rob me of remission, and I have learned to live with that fact. (I’m hoping for a large dose of homemade biscuits in heaven!!)

Some of you can relate. Maybe it’s not Celiac, or even an auto-immune disease, but you may endure the hardship of a challenging physical battle each day of your life. It’s tough living with the daily trials and restrictions of a chronic condition. As you probably know quite well, that day after day battle requires large doses of support and self-discipline. 

But some of you reading this blog wrestle with a more hidden condition. You don’t have Celiac disease, or any other serious auto-immune disease. (I hope you don’t.) You wrestle with a more silent, but equally as powerful struggle: mental illness. While you may have no negative consequences from a slice of bread, there are other things that will certainly trigger you. Those triggers bring unwelcomed symptoms. Sometimes those symptoms can become very serious. Much like someone with Celiac, you must take very seriously your “ingestion” of triggers. You too must omit some things from your life in order to ensure that you remain stable. For instance, if you wrestle with anxiety, then you must abstain from caffeine. If you wrestle with depression, you must abstain from alcohol. If you wrestle with fear, you must abstain from dark horror or sci-fi movies or books. If you wrestle with anger, you must abstain from long viewings of the news. If you struggle with any chronic mental illness, you must be mindful of anything that enters your brain, which is your most important bodily organ. You must be mindful of who you spend your time with. Like foods, people can be either toxic or medicinal. You must be aware of your triggers, and sometimes those triggers are unique to you alone (you must become your own expert). In a nutshell, your triggers can be as toxic for your mental health as a bread bar would be for someone with Celiac. That sounds harsh. But it’s true.

Whether we wrestle with a mental, spiritual, or physical health concern, our ownership of our health is key! That ownership takes a grown-up perspective! It requires relinquishing and grieving what we SO want to put into our bodies or minds, but can’t afford. And then owning our own health, because we have the exclusive responsibility for ourselves. That ownership may sometimes require radical steps to ensure that we are our best version of ourselves. Not perfect. But as stable as we can be this side of eternity. Perfectly imperfect!

Donna Gibbs, co-owner of Summit Wellness Centers, PLLC, is author of the recent releases, Silencing Insecurity and Becoming Resilient. Donna has authored numerous other books, and is commonly featured on radio broadcasts across America, and occasionally internationally as well. Donna has been providing individuals and families the hope and help they need for twenty years as a national certified counselor, board-certified professional Christian counselor, and licensed professional counselor supervisor. A member of the American Association of Christian Counselors (AACC), she is a leading professional provider for Focus on the Family, Christian Care Network, r3Continuum, FINDINGbalance, and Samaritan’s Purse. 

Follow Donna’s author page at https://www.facebook.com/DonnaGibbsResilience/ for daily encouragement, the weekly blog, and updates regarding events and speaking engagements.



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