Coping With Emotions When You’re Newly Gluten-Free

In the first weeks and months you spend on the gluten-free diet, you can experience a jumble of many different emotions.

A slice of bread toast with a sad face
Stefka Pavlova / Getty Images

You may feel relieved or even happy for your diagnosis of celiac disease or non-celiac gluten sensitivity since it explains what may have been perplexing symptoms. You may feel angry if it took a long time for you finally to be diagnosed. And you may feel sad as the realities of day-to-day gluten-free living sink in, and you realize you no longer can eat the gluten versions of many of your favorite foods.

In fact, it’s probably most common to feel sad and a bit angry as you learn how to eat gluten-free. There’s no denying that it’s inconvenient and frustrating at times.

Here are three situations that often trigger really negative emotions when you’re newly gluten-free, and some strategies and tips to help you cope.

That First Grocery Store Trip May Bring on Frustration

For many people new to the gluten-free diet, their first trip to the grocery store is an exercise in misery, frustration, and anger. It’s pretty normal to spend several hours in the store, reading labels of foods, but still to walk out with far less than you intended to buy, simply because you couldn’t figure out what’s gluten-free and what’s not.

Some people burst into tears during that first trip because it’s so overwhelming and frustrating.

Yes, following the gluten-free diet is getting easier than ever, but there’s still a tremendous learning curve involved and so much of that learning seems to take place in the aisles of your local supermarket. To make those first few shopping trips easier, check out our comprehensive gluten-free foods list. In it, we provide tips on what’s always safe, what’s never safe, and what you’ll need to check on.

Foods You Can’t Eat Anymore May Make You Sad

Once you’ve got your food sorted out and you’ve got enough gluten-free food to eat, you’ll need to deal with your emotions surrounding the fact that you can’t eat lots of foods you used to love.

This is another tough one: It’s hard to watch your family and friends enjoying your old favorites, especially if you haven’t yet found any new favorites to replace them. These feelings are most acute around the holidays and other special occasions but can occur at any time of the year like, say, when your buddies decide on the spur of the moment to order pizza.

The only way to deal with this is to work as hard as possible to identify some new favorite foods.

For example, these days, plenty of restaurants serve gluten-free pizza (some even deliver), or you can enjoy a gluten-free frozen pizza. Independent gluten-free bakeries are springing up in larger towns and cities, too, so you can satisfy your sweet tooth with something really good.

You’ll inevitably have some really sad patches (especially around the holidays), but if you focus on finding or creating truly excellent food that’s better than the gluten-filled food being served, you can pull yourself out of the doldrums.

Safely Dining Out Gluten-Free Takes Practice

Many people love to eat out. But once you’re following the gluten-free diet, it can go from an enjoyable experience to (you guessed it) a frustrating, sad one.

When you’re first starting out, stick to restaurants with gluten-free menus. These restaurants are more likely to have trained their staff members on how to handle gluten-free meal requests, so you won’t need to do so much explaining.

Once you feel more confident, you can venture outside of your comfort zone and try a new restaurant. Check out these tips for safely dining out gluten-free.

Yes, you should expect some emotional swings during your first few months on the diet (especially if you experience depression from gluten, as some people do). But overall, your mood should be on an upward trajectory as your health improves and you learn how to follow the diet more easily.

1 Source
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  1. Durazzo M, Ferro A, Brascugli I, Mattivi S, Fagoonee S, Pellicano R. Extra-intestinal manifestations of celiac disease: what should we know in 2022?. J Clin Med. 2022;11(1):258. doi:10.3390/jcm11010258

By Jane Anderson
Jane Anderson is a medical journalist and an expert in celiac disease, gluten sensitivity, and the gluten-free diet.