If you are gluten free for medical reasons, then you know how much a gluten incident can destroy your pocketbook. There are no magic pills that just end the pain, but insurance companies charge out the wazoo for the myriad of medications that will help ease some of the symptoms. Even if you opt to champ through the pain Rocky-style, there is a high likelihood of you missing work because you are simply too sick to go in.
The truth is that the simplest mistakes can lead to a Celiac writhing in pain, clutching their stomach with one hand and hastily applying cream to the rashes that are rapidly appearing on their body. Once you stop cursing the gene that led to this lovely scene, you begin to work through the gluten fog in an attempt to figure out where you went wrong.
For me, it is nearly always one of these three things:
- Eating before reading. Whether I am at a friends hanging out, or walking through Costco on a weekend, I used to have a really bad habit of picking up ‘safe’ foods like lunch meat or cheese samples without stepping back and checking the labels very carefully. What did I learn from this? That gluten is very sneaky, and is used in things that you never think possible (like the fact that imitation crab is gluten-based, or some lunch meat factories use it to process the meat–hell, even some medications use gluten). You also never know when something was packaged on the same equipment– bottom line, not reading labels can lead to intestinal damage.
- Not being careful whilst preparing food for others. I am very sensitive, and keep a basically gluten-free kitchen. On the occasions that I do cook gluten-filled items in my house, I have noticed that it can be very difficult to avoid cross-contamination. Anecdotal evidence of this would be The Time We Were Making Two Types of Pancakes. We had two pans, two spatulas, and two serving plates. AND YET- in spite of the fact that I have been living gluten free for nearly five years- I still managed to accidentally use the gluten spatula on my gluten-free pancakes when I had gotten a little distracted & wanted to avoid burning a pancake. My best advice is to make your gluten-free food FIRST, and then move on to the more dangerous items. I know it is proverbial ‘pain in the ass’, but it is a whole lot better than it being an ACTUAL pain in your ass (or stomach).
- Eating outside of my home. I used to tell people that it wasn’t a big deal to be a Celiac, that you could eat out pretty much wherever you wanted & not worry so long as you were careful. But here is the thing– no matter how careful you are, you cannot control how careful anyone else will be. The U.S. doesn’t necessarily take autoimmune disorders like Celiac sprue seriously yet, and that is reflected in our restaurants. As difficult as it is for someone who lives with Celiac Sprue every day to avoid cross-contamination in their own kitchen, how difficult do you think it is for people who think you are simply being picky? Even restaurants that have gluten-free sections on their menu cook their gluten-free food on the same griddles as the gluten-filled things! Eventually, restaurants are going to have to get on board with those of us suffering from some kind of Auto Immune Disorder– until then, be very selective about where you eat out, and be very clear about the fact that eating gluten slowly kills you.
Now, you may be wondering why I chose to write about this subject after such a long hiatus. OR, you may just be wondering how they manage to get the ink inside a ball-point pen. I’m not really sure, but I can only explain the first part: I am an idiot who decided to eat samples in Costco without reading labels. These are my confessions— I’m not proud, but it’s the truth.