Dear Dr. Abbe
Published January 16, 2020
Dear Dr. Abbe is Generation GF’s advice column. Dr. Abbe is a licensed psychologist with a PhD in Clinical and School Psychology. She responds to your questions about life as a gluten-free kid or teen. Email GenerationGF@archive.gluten.org to submit a question of your own, and look for it in an upcoming edition of Generation GF Magazine.
I’m 13 and was diagnosed with celiac 6 months ago. At first I was feeling great but lately, I’ve had a lot of headaches and am super moody, like always angry and raging. My mom is fed up and I don’t like feeling this way. Could this be gluten related?
First off, I am really proud of you. It takes a lot of guts to be able to know when things are going well, and when they aren’t, and then ask for help.
So much is going on at 13. You are really maturing, both physically and emotionally. Think of your mind and body like a foot growing in a sock: sometimes it fits perfectly, sometimes you push and grow, sometimes the seam bothers you. That’s 13.
There’s a lot that goes into being moody, having headaches, and being angry. Could you be eating something that contains gluten? Listen to your body. You know how you react when you eat gluten: do you feel nauseous? Do your bones ache? Are you in the bathroom more?
Eating right and exercising in general will help, too: drink enough water, eat less processed foods and more whole grains, and exercising at least three times a week (sweating so much that you have to shower and wash your hair) should also help you even out your moods and help your body feel better.
If that still doesn’t work, try to speak to someone who can help you figure out how to feel better.
My 6-year-old silent celiac ate regular pizza at a friend’s house and when I got upset, she cried and said that she just wants to be normal and hates her life. What now?
Now you give her a hug. She doesn’t understand that something that everyone else does, that she doesn’t feel “sick” over, can hurt her.
It’s hard not to be like everyone else. And she doesn’t understand why she can’t eat regular pizza. Getting involved in groups like Generation GF will help her feel like she’s not alone, and there are other kids just like her. Finding that peer group will go a long way in helping her “fit in”.
Depending on her maturity, you may have to be present when there’s food involved. Let the parents know that she has celiac disease but doesn’t show her symptoms externally. You can’t be on top of her every time she eats something (nor should you), but she might not be ready yet to oversee her food intake.
When she gets older, her doctor and you should sit down and show her what happens in her body when she eats gluten.
I am starting high school soon and practices for football starting in August. My mom heard that the team is always fed lots of donuts and pizza, and when she asked the school nurse about it, she suggested that it might be better if I wasn’t on the team. That hurt! I don’t want to feel left out but I also don’t want to be left out. What do I do?
Congratulations on joining the team! That’s great and quite an accomplishment! Now that you made it here, it’s time for you to start finding out what’s really going on.
You need to speak to the coaches yourself. They will be really impressed at how you advocate for yourself and your needs. It’s always good for you to know what you can and can’t eat, and how to get the food you need or want. There’s no reason for you to miss out on pizza and donuts!
You should know that you can’t be excluded because you can’t eat their pizza and donuts, in fact, it is against the law. There are lots of places that offer gluten-free pizza, that can be picked up or delivered with the regular pies. You might have to bring the donuts, or ask them to order them in advance.
Remember that you can’t be left out because you can’t eat certain foods. It’s important for you to speak up for your needs. You’ve got this. Have a great season and don’t eat too many donuts or pizza, even if they’re gluten-free!