Celiac Disease in the Workplace: How to Start the Conversation

Celiac Disease in the Workplace

As we know, living with celiac disease can pose challenges to your everyday life. Whether you’re trying to enjoy a nice evening out with friends or simply going to work.

Not everyone is educated about celiac disease or its related intolerances. You may have to take some time to explain to your manager and coworkers what you’re dealing with.

It’s completely okay to have an honest conversation about your condition in your workplace – you may even find that other coworkers are able to relate. 

You can easily explain that celiac disease is an autoimmune disease caused by the consumption of gluten that disrupts the digestive process in the small intestine. 

Also note that simply sticking to a gluten-free diet isn’t enough and that there are other factors that impact whether you can stay healthy. 

The important thing to remember is that you can function your best when you design a plan so your celiac disease doesn’t interfere with you work.

The less focus you feel you need to to place on your condition, the more you can relax and concentrate on your work. 

Celiac Awareness

Celiac Disease in the Workplace

An English physician named Samuel Gee published the first description of celiac disease in 1888.

After observing his patients and following their symptoms, he discovered their problems were all related to their diet. 

He was the first to create a gluten-free diet for those suffering from celiac disease and ensured that he made the public aware about it. 

Bringing awareness to your family, friends, and colleagues is important and will help you grow and heal.

For health reasons, making your workplace fully aware of celiac can not only help yourself but every individual with whom you work to understand it. 

Workplace Challenges

Many workplaces love to host mixers and snack days for their staff.  Some companies will order batches of food and coworkers will bring delicious baked goods and cultural dishes to share (the potluck concept is very popular in the US). 

The only problem with this approach is that someone with celiac disease will be less likely to participate in these coworker events simply because they don’t know how the food was prepared, what ingredients were used, and, most importantly, whether it contains gluten. 

Lack of participation in group activities can create a sense of isolation. This isolation can lead to depressive episodes, where the mental side of the disease takes over. 

How can you navigate this problem? There are some things you can do as a precaution before participating in the festivities:

  • Talk to your manager: Educate them on your celiac disease and how it affects you in the workplace. Most managers will help accommodate your needs.
  • Inform your coworkers: The next time there is a celebratory potluck, ask them to make a list of the ingredients used and if there was any chance of cross contamination.
  • Training sessions: Don’t be scared to open up the conversation with your team about celiac disease. It’s always helpful for everyone to be educated about it and ask questions.

Instead of pretending to eat potluck food or, if you are embarrassed, to eat it in front of them, kindly inform your co-workers of the situation so you aren’t making excuses about it.

And the same applies when the company orders food for a special occasion or if there are out of town employees visiting the premises. Many restaurants  offer gluten-free options to their patrons because they know many people live a gluten-free diet. 

There’s no harm in asking your manager to ask the restaurant they will be ordering from for gluten free options. You should be able to join in on the fun and not have to worry about the food. 

ADA and Celiac Disease

Celiac Disease in the Workplace

Does the ADA (American Disabilities Association) consider a non-visible disease as a disability? Yes, it does. 

If your employer knows that you have celiac disease, you should be able to work in a safe and comfortable environment. They will be made aware of your gluten sensitivity and their obligation to accomodate your needs by the ADA.

The ADA can help in cases involving:

  • Potential employment opportunity decisions
  • Reasonable accommodation for restroom breaks
  • Provision of safe food in the workplace
  • Permission to bring your own gluten-free food to the workplace
  • Your right to gluten-free options
  • Requirements that public and private schools offer gluten-free options to their students

Situations the ADA will not be involved in:

  • Forcing a restaurant to offer you gluten-free options
  • Forcing a school institution to offer students gluten-free options

Planning

Proper planning can help tremendously with making sure that your work life is not interrupted by your celiac condition. Plan your meals in advance and do it at the beginning of the week.

Planning your gluten-free meals is a crucial part of the healing process. Know what you can and cannot consume. Make a list and take a trip to the grocery store. There is a great variety of gluten-free options. 

For many people living with celiac disease, it can be a period of trial and error. 

Celiac Disease Screening

Celiac Disease in the Workplace

Maybe you have a sensitivity to certain foods, possibly because of the gluten.

If you suspect that what you’re experiencing is more than a food allergy or food intolerance, take a blood test to determine if you have celiac disease.

The best test to check if you may have celiac disease is our own new at-home celiac screening test

All it takes is a few minutes to prick your finger and you can see your results online in less than a week. If need be, make sure you follow up with a medical practitioner to learn more about this condition and for further testing.

Conclusion

Bringing celiac disease awareness to the workplace can seem overwhelming but it doesn’t have to be. 

Remember to have an open interaction with your coworkers and managers about celiac and help them understand what you may be experiencing. 

Plan your meals and avoid eating during employee potlucks until you have enough information about what is in the food and how it was prepared.
Could gluten be the problem? Test yourself and determine if you may have celiac disease, visit http://imaware.health for more information. Always speak with a medical practitioner about your results.

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