The month of November among many other things is Gluten-Free Diet Awareness Month. And if you are on a gluten-free diet you are likely very aware that gluten is difficult to avoid in the American Diet! You might have even discovered unexpected spiritual side-effects of going gluten free. This blog explores reasons why many have decided to ditch gluten, my personal experience with living gluten-free, and how going on a gluten free diet can affect your experience with the Sacraments.
Prior to going gluten free, I was guilty of light heartedly making fun of people who had decided to give-up gluten. I truly didn’t understand why so many people seemed to be following what seemed just like another west-coast “fad” that would eventually pass over. I was convinced that I would never join this following. But then God provided me with a lesson in humility that I would never forget (while still residing in my home state of California)!
In the Fall of 2015, amid a period of significant life stress, I began having bizarre physical symptoms that I eventually discovered were, in part, linked to what I was eating. I began an elimination diet to see what food or food groups were negatively affecting me. Within 48 hours of eliminating gluten, I found significant relief from my symptoms. And after consultation with my doctor, I made the decision to continue living gluten free.
- Celiac Disease
Celiac disease is a rare autoimmune disorder in which the body attacks the small intestine when gluten is ingested. When left untreated celiac disease often leads to malnutrition and other poor health outcomes. While there is no cure, those with celiac treat their symptoms by maintaining a strict gluten-free diet.
- Gluten Intolerance
Gluten Intolerance affects approximately 6% of the population and is defined by as a sensitivity to gluten-containing foods. While those with gluten-intolerance can have similar symptoms to those with celiac disease, they do not have the same immunologic reaction. Gluten-intolerance is managed with adherence to a gluten-free diet in varying degrees as determined by a health care team.
Impacts on the Spiritual Life
When I first committed to a gluten-free diet, I continued receiving both species of the Blessed Sacrament as I always had. I very pridefully refused to give up receiving the precious body in the host, even though I was also consuming wheat (a source of gluten) when I received the Eucharist. I was determined that I would continue doing this so that I would not “draw attention to myself” or create what I saw as “an undue burden” of the liturgy by receiving either the precious Blood or a special host separate from everyone else.
After almost a year of this, I realized that my daily life was negatively impacted by this decision. My symptoms would remain for days after receiving and I was not able to be fully present in my daily life. In another lesson of humility, I made the decision to speak to my priest about receiving the precious blood or a low-gluten host, and he was more than willing to help me. I struggled greatly with asking for this before every Mass I attended. It also brought with it the feeling that everyone was watching me when I would receive communion.
A Lesson in Humility
I eventually came to realize that my initial resistance in asking for this accommodation was coming from a place inside myself that needed to be touched by the Lord. The very act of taking an extra step to receive the Lord, often in a way that visibly separates me from everyone else at communion time, began healing wounds of vanity and pride. I began to understand this situation as a lesson in detachment from how others perceive me so that I could focus more on how the Lord sees me.
I slowly came to realize that the Lord also delighted in my little extra steps, that I found embarrassing, to ensure that I could receive Him. While the Lord certainly didn’t cause my gluten intolerance, He was indeed using it to heal me!
We Are Here To Help
So, if you are gluten-free and haven’t been to communion for awhile (or are suffering from doing so), I invite you to take this to prayer. I invite you to not be afraid of asking for help and to know you are not alone!
If you are struggling navigating the sacraments while maintaining a gluten-free diet or are looking for help in maintaining a gluten-free diet, CURO spiritual directors and wellness coaches are here to help! Give us a call at 800-840-7471 or visit cmfcuro.com/contact to set up an appointment.