You and your friends are deciding where to eat and they all unanimously want tonight's meal to be Italian. You freeze.
All you can think about is the endless amounts of bread, pasta, and pizza going to be served. Gluten lying in every corner, swirling around in your gut. Just the thought alone makes you terrified: one bite will send you careening towards the bathroom faster than it takes for all the food to be served. You know you're going to be in for a rough night if you go with their plans.
You tell them you can't eat anything there because you have a food allergy, specifically an allergy to gluten.
One of your friends asks, "What's gluten? I've never heard of it before."
Ah, the all time most frequent question asked to celiacs universally. I, myself, have been asked countless times by friends, by family, and by waitstaff at restaurants. I remember when I used to get really frustrated and upset that people didn't already know about gluten. People would be surprised when I told them that I can't have bread because there's wheat in it and wheat contains gluten. Some of my friends didn't even know that bread was made of wheat!
But the sad truth is that there are so many people in the world that are unaware of food allergies, let alone gluten. I know I'm guilty. I didn't know about gluten and where it was found until I was diagnosed and had to stop eating it. So I understand where these people are coming from: I used to be one of them.
Many people understand food allergy symptoms as face/body swellings, the inability to breathe, redness, hives, and anaphylaxis. But these are just some aspects of the damage that can occur to people allergic to certain foods and their components.
Most don't know about the severity of stomach issues that can occur when celiacs consume gluten. As celiacs know, consumption of gluten can lead to intense/stabbing pain in the abdomen, uncomfortable bloating, diarrhea, weight loss, and dermatitis. There are also psychological problems that can come with consuming gluten such as depression. Continual consumption without knowledge can also lead to intestinal cancer and even death, in some cases.
My point is that celiac disease is not something to be taken lightly nor should it be shelved up in the multitudes of food allergies. The symptoms are different and equally as dangerous as those who have severe allergies to peanuts or soy and thus it deserves its own category. But, all in all, I believe that education in every food allergy and its respective symptoms is the key to improving diagnostics, engineering new medicine as well as improving societal understanding and awareness of food allergies.
So, in response to if a friend asks you about gluten because they honestly don't know, here are some tips that can help you out with that:
Tell them the straight facts: gluten is a protein found in wheat, rye, barley, and oats. Gluten causes you to become very ill if eaten (you can spare them the details unless they ask further and are truly interested) and so you must go on a strict gluten free diet.
You may go into more detail about celiac disease and gluten ONLY IF ASKED. The biggest tip I can give is NEVER assume people want to hear about your medical history and all the strange happenings in your body. For some, that will completely ruin their appetite and you can be sure they won't think fondly of you the next time it happens.
If you have good, understanding friends, (which I'm sure you all do), they will want to be educated and to know more about what you can and can't eat. Suggest some restaurants that you know have gfree menus, have gfree food, or places where you have eaten the food several times and did not have any negative reactions. However, as a rule of thumb, always exercise caution!! When in doubt, don't eat it!
This is just a tip when eating out if the restaurant has no food for you to eat: Eat beforehand, bring a snack, and treat yourself out later. Sometimes you don't want to be the center of attention in a huge party or known as the "picky" eater who has to have everyone cater to you. You know what is safe for you; don't assume other people know or will be concerned.
Let me know if there are any tips out there that have worked for you when you encountered this type of situation!
Kris and T are two college students that are both diagnosed with Celiac Disease. The goal of our blog is to provide tips, advice, and information on gluten free dining while on a budget. We will provide resturant reviews, recipes, product reviews, and tips on gluten free eats!
Kris & T Go Gfree offers gfree suggestions and tips for eating out safely based on our current knowledge of restaurant protocol, menu, and naturally gluten free foods. However, we shall not be held accountable for any and all viewers' own actions shall they become ill after trying our recommended selections. Viewers/followers of our blog are responsible for their own actions and thus consequences- in other words, eat at your own risk. Everyone's sensitivity levels are different and you should be well aware before deciding to consume any food items. Thank you.