Raising Your Coeliac Child: What You Need to Know by Lucy Nixon

Hannah Lawrence reviews Lucy Nixon's new book about bringing up a coeliac child.
The book is available from Amazon UK here and from Amazon US here.

BBQIf your child’s just been diagnosed with coeliac disease, it can be difficult to know what to do. What are you supposed to feed them? How can you keep them safe? What if they get bullied?

This book condenses Nixon’s 20 years of experience, from her (then) toddler’s diagnosis with Coeliac disease into a happy and healthy adulthood. As she says, 'If you’re wondering how to start, and how you’re going to manage, this book is for you. It isn’t a recipe book, or a book about nutrition; it’s about raising your coeliac child, and I hope it will make your life (and theirs) a little bit easier.'

It starts with an excellent, no-nonsense description of what coeliac disease is, and what gluten is, making this a particularly useful book for absolute beginners. It deals with everything – the emotions you may be feeling, finding support and simply understanding—and accepting—what’s going on.

Nixon has gone through the horrors that many coeliac parents—perhaps you—have suffered: seeing your child distressed and malnournished, of feeling that you’re failing them, of the helplessness that so often accompanies parenting. But there is hope.

As she reports: 'This tiny girl who had refused food… now wanted second helpings. It makes me want to cry even now, 20 years on, just thinking about the first day she asked for food.'

The challenges

Nixon looks at the challenges that Coeliacs—and their carers—face and covers them in detail; written with compassion but totally without saccharine, it’s clear-eyed and full of useful information. There’s the science behind why people have coeliac disease too, all simply explained and easy to understand.

Although the book’s especially suitable for absolute beginners, Nixon’s designed it to be useful for people at various different stages in their understanding of coeliac disease. It’s stuffed with handy tips and hints—and a section dispelling common myths. You may well want to read it with a jotter to hand so you can make notes!

Tips and advice

It can be hard to keep a kitchen scrupulously gluten-free—especially if you’re sharing it with 'mainstream' eaters—and there are some really useful strategies to make sure that your food stays coeliac-friendly.

Feeling normal

Something that comes up time and again with coeliac and food-allergic children is that they just want to feel normal; they don’t like feeling different to their friends and siblings, they don’t want to be the odd-one-out at the restaurant.

Nixon acknowledges this, and shares her own experience in incorporating coeliac disease into everyday life: 'It is important not to make a fuss about the diet, but to treat it as a normal part of life. Treat it seriously, because strict compliance to the diet matters to their future health, but it’s not a drama. Your child will need to learn to cope on their own as they get older, and you really don’t want to introduce issues around food.'

There’s also thoughts on how it affects non-coeliac siblings, and how to get them on board.

Dealing with new situations

The biggest challenge can sometimes be dealing with new situations—perhaps a trip to guide camp, a new restaurant, perhaps Grandpa feels that “one biscuit won’t hurt”, or maybe your houseguest needs to be told not to contaminate the butter with gluten crumbs.

Again, there is insightful and important advice to help you keep your child safe and healthy. And as we’re dealing with children, there’s even Nixon’s thoughts on birthday parties, school lunches, classroom life and the like. This is a book to read, absorb, and return to again and again.

Successful outcome?

It’s perfectly possible for a coeliac child to live a healthy and, above all, normal life. Nixon reports that her daughter is now 'a happy and healthy 21 year old who can cook, who knows how to manage her diet, and isn’t afraid to eat out or travel, whether she’s doing a four-day hike here in the UK or spending several weeks in foreign countries.'

This book will help you follow a similar path; sometimes it’s just nice to know that you’re not alone on your journey, that others have been there before. If you have a coeliac child—particularly if you’re new to the world of coeliacs—you will definitely find this book helpful and reassuring.

The book is availabe from Amazon UK here and from Amazon US here.

November 2017

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If you found this article interesting, you will find many more general articles and research reports on coeliac disease here, and lots of information on the management of coeliac disease here.
You can also find articles and research reports on gluten intolerance here and articles on a wide range of other digestive conditions here.

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