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Can Practicing Self-Compassion Improve Gut Health? A 3-Step Approach

Updated: Apr 10

We all want to FEEL better, right!? So how do you practice self-compassion when struggling with digestive health?

My good friend and colleague, Dr. Mary Jung and I published a paper on the effects of self-compassion on coping with celiac disease. We found that higher levels of self-compassion directly predicted higher levels of quality of life and better adherence to a gluten-free diet.

How do you actually practice self-compassion in the face of chronic disease?

1. Practice self-kindness.

A key part of practicing self-compassion is simply being kind to yourself. Start with observing the thoughts going through your brain. Are they positive or negative? As you become aware of your thoughts, try to replace negative thoughts with more positive ones.

2. Recognize that you are NOT alone.

Other people struggle with digestive health issues too. Acknowledge that going through difficult times is part of being human. Taking comfort in common humanity can be a particularly potent source of support when struggling.

3. Mindfulness is key.

Mindfulness – recognizing your thoughts and current situation with non-judgment and acceptance. This doesn’t mean that you are a push over, it simply means that you are present with your thoughts and acknowledge them without getting attached and pulling them in or pushing them away.

How Self-Compassion Helped Me Through an Accidental Glutening

You’ve been there… the dreaded feeling of knowing you ate something that you shouldn’t have and are about to be sick for who knows how long.

Fortunately this does not happen to me very often… but, when it does, it is awful.

However, I found that practicing self-compassion was particularly helpful when I experienced a terrible accidental glutening. Although I am very diligent about checking before I eat things, accidents do happen. When I was getting sick, I noticed that immediately my thoughts turned very negative. I was extremely angry at the place that had mislabeled the meal and ruined my afternoon. I then became frustrated with myself for not triple checking that the meal was safe. I felt that I was the only person ‘dumb’ enough to let this happen, and thought that I was going to feel sick forever. Dramatic I know – but it is the honest truth!

Once I realized what I was doing to myself, I took a deep breath and started being kind to myself. Simply saying, “You are not dumb for accidentally getting poisoned. You do your best on a daily basis to eat a nutritious gluten-free diet, and sometimes accidents just happen.”

I then reminded myself that I was not the only person in the world with celiac disease who had been accidentally glutened – cultivating my sense of common humanity. “I’m not alone. Other people with celiac disease get accidentally glutened as well.”

And finally, as much as I wanted to push away the awful pain that I was in, I tried to soften those thoughts and be mindful to my current state. Getting sick after eating gluten. Stomach cramps. Exhaustion. Brain fog. Discomfort everywhere. “This too shall pass. I’ve recovered from glutening before. I will be ok.”

After going through these three steps, I was able to lie down, have a nap and start to heal.

How do you make yourself feel better after an accidental glutening? Have you ever tried any of these strategies before? I’d love to hear about your experience in the comments below.

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1 Comment

Allison Matheny
Allison Matheny
Apr 01, 2022

I can’t thank you enough for this - I am on my 5th day unable to work after i poisoned myself on Sunday. The mental struggle is as hard as the physical one. Thank you for so clearly identifying that and giving practical solutions.

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