I’m still young, and grateful I was diagnosed early in life. Many people are mistaken if they believe that only young people can develop gluten intolerance.
There are two issues really. The first is some people don’t develop the intolerance until late in life. The second point is the medical community is just now really becoming aware of how common gluten intolerance is and are better able to diagnose the condition. As a result, senior citizens are finding out they have Celiac disease for the first time in their lives.
The good news is intestines can be repaired no matter what age you are diagnosed. Naturally, one of the “side effects” of aging is the fact it takes longer for anything to heal and that includes the damage to the villi in the intestines. But, if you stop eating gluten, you will begin to heal and feel better.
There is a woman on the Gluten Free Club forum who wrote her mother was diagnosed when she was 79 years old! She stopped eating gluten and was happy to do so, because it had been causing so many digestive problems.
Seniors can face several problems coping with gluten free living. First, many live on a fixed income and can’t afford prepared gluten free food. They must cook their own meals.
It is wise to make sure the gluten intolerant senior in your life has everything he or she needs to make cooking gluten free foods as easy as possible. For example, an inexpensive rice cooker makes cooking rice safe and easy. A crock pot or steamer can cook vegetables with no fuss.
Senior citizens should take advantage of the services of a dietician if at all possible. Seniors need to make sure they eat regular balanced meals. Almost every area has a health department that has dedicated senior services or can suggest how to obtain the services free of charge.
Senior celiacs must also be concerned with issues like osteoporosis treatment. The doctor should be recommending supplements that 1) make up for any vitamins and minerals not being obtained through a gluten free diet, and 2) treat deficiencies that commonly occur in the older years. But celiac seniors must make sure the supplements do not contain gluten. The pharmacist can help with off-the-shelf selections.
Other issues facing senior citizens with gluten intolerance include the following.
• Finding gluten free foods while traveling during retirement years
• Distinguishing between age related problems and problems caused by Celiac disease
• Taking medications that have no gluten coatings or fillers
• Creating affordable menus with gluten free foods (check out our GFC Recipes section!)
Unfortunately, seniors sometimes have problems getting medical personnel to take them seriously. It’s sad but true. I hear the stories all the time through email.
If you know a senior citizen who has Celiac disease, make sure they understand what is necessary in order to remain healthy. They may need help with food planning or with communicating with doctors and nurses.
Aging can be difficult enough without having to face a disease alone.