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Sticky Situations: Tips & Advice

Sticky Situation #4: Some words on Cross contamination 

Hey everyone!

I realized that I haven't written a post in forever, (thankfully my dear friend T was able to post one out for you all recently) and for that, please accept my little apology. :)

Anyway, I was struck with the inspiration of sorts to write about cross contamination because 1) We haven't really covered too much about cross contamination and its potential dangers since our blog's inception, and 2) My experiences at church prompted this topic.

In talking about the latter point, as I was sitting in church today and mass came to the point when the congregation was about to take part in the Eucharistic sacrament, I realized that all those, like me, who have gluten allergies cannot take part in eating the body and drinking the blood of Christ without risk of some serious gluten contamination. Firstly, for all those who don't already know, when Christians take communion, the communion wafer is made of wheat and the wine is, at least in Catholic church, poured in one cup that is communally shared. Many tend to take both the bread and wine and so when they drink the wine, the crumbs from the wafer may slip into the drink or even worse, they actually dip the entire wafer into the cup thereby contaminating it even further! So... I have now reverted to sitting in the pews patiently waiting until that part of mass ends.

Although this is unfortunate, I do know of the existence of gluten free communion wafers, so I should probably get my hands on some!

In talking about cross contamination, the key things to know are that...
1) Cross contamination is EVERYWHERE
2) Even if it is tedious, take precaution and if in doubt, do whatever it takes to ensure that what you're eating is free of contaminants before you put it in your mouth!

You may ask, "Okay, so if cross contamination is everywhere, how can I possibly avoid everything??"
The truth is, you can't. Since cross contamination IS everywhere, it is almost impossible to be 100% safe unless you're eating at home where you can control what you're eating and how it is prepared. So, let's start there.

1) If you're new to being gluten free, first, welcome to the community! Second, it is wise to change out ALL your silverware, glasses, utensils and pots/pans that you used to cook your previous gluten filled meals. All of those kitchenware items have a degree of cross contamination from the gluten, EVEN if you have washed it a bunch of times. To be perfectly safe, change them. However, if you are wary to throw out your favorite dishes and utensils (I can totally understand), you may choose to keep them and wash them with a NEW sponge in hot water and then run it again in the dishwasher. For me, I didn't have the heart to throw my dishware away and I also am not as sensitive as others, so I cleaned them to the best of my ability and I have not yet suffered any maladies (keeping my fingers crossed!).

2) If you're living with someone else or you live with your family whom is not eating gluten free, prepare some utensils and cooking ware that is dedicated just for you and inform your loved ones NOT to use it. Try placing it in a separate cabinet also, AWAY from their stuff. Distance is key :)

3) For all the shared food items, such as butter, jams and jellies, or anything that a gluten filled knife can contaminate, I would get a new jar for your own use or get a new jar and don't let your loved ones double dip! To be safe, I recommend getting your own jars/containers and marking it with your name.

4) Get your own small gfree refrigerator. No longer do you run the risk of your loved ones using your stuff when you can just store it all away in your own personal fridge! Now, isn't that nice! This is my personal favorite tip and most recommended!

5) Have a designated "gfree" cabinet or pantry shelf where you can put all your lovely gfree snacks and food goodies. Minimize the risk!

1) If you're planning on going out, but you know, since Kris told you, that cross contamination is everywhere, try to eat at home before heading out to a night with friends. It's safer, you run less of a risk of falling ill, and you save money! Now that's always a plus.

2) Not sure where your friends are heading to eat? Refer to tip 1 in this section or if you're in a rush, pack some snacks in your purse/bag and get filled up that way.

3) If you're not as sensitive, like me, eating out is okay once in a while. Always remember to double check with the chef how the food is prepared, the ingredients, and also, if they wouldn't mind to use new, clean utensils to cook your meal. I know this sounds like a huge deal (and probably somewhat of an inconvenience to them, but it's for your health, so take every precaution!) If they're accommodating, make sure to leave a nice tip to show that you appreciate their concern and that they took the time to make accommodations for you. Not all restaurants and chefs are nice, so if you happen to get a good one, he/she is a keeper!

4) Take your dining card with you when you eat. Here's a link for a dining card written in English: http://www.celiactravel.com/file_uploads/cards/english-gluten-free-restaurant-card.pdf
If you're traveling, you can also download cards in multiple languages. I'll post the link here: http://celiacdisease.about.com/gi/o.htm?zi=1/XJ&zTi=1&sdn=celiacdisease&cdn=health&tm=9&f=10&su=p284.13.342.ip_&tt=2&bt=1&bts=1&zu=http%3A//www.celiactravel.com/restaurant-cards.html
I found that it is SUPER important to tell the waiter that you have a food allergy and you'll get really sick. For example, if you want to order a salad with no croutons, but you don't say why, they may assume that you're just watching your weight or simply dislike croutons. They won't take it that seriously and there may be risk of some croutons placed haphazardly in your salad, and then just picked out before they give it to you. (Trust me, this happens quite frequently!!). If you present them the card, it just saves SO much time and explanation on your part and probably less confusion on theirs.

What tips do you guys have to minimize cross contamination? Comment below or on our facebook page!

Also, feel free to let me or T know what topics YOU would like us to talk about. Drop us a comment or email us. We love to hear from you guys!! :)

Eat safely and have a wonderful week!

Sticky Situation #3: What to do when you crave gluten

If you're a steadfast gfreer like me, you'll have no doubt come across the all encompassing temptation of the gluten goodies.

Yep, you know what I'm talking about.

Imagine a scene of you with a dish of fresh baked cookies sitting on the table. The aromatic scent of the cookies rises up into your nose causing your mouth to immediately start watering. You glance longingly at the cookies. The deliciously round disks of sugary flour are a perfect golden brown tinge and the ridges and cracks on its buttery surface make it look all the more appetizing. You imagine the taste in your mouth, the feel of the dough across your tongue and the crunching sound you hear as you chew slowly and deliberately, savoring the golden flavor. The cookie beckons for you to come closer. Soon, the urge to satisfy your craving are becoming too much to handle.

Probably not gfree choco chip cookies... but they do look oh so good

Before you know it, your hand has already reached out and that gluten filled cookie is heading closer and closer towards your mouth. You know its wrong and you try to reason with yourself in your head. But all reason flies out the window when the cookie hits your tongue and the familiar flavors that you enjoyed in the past come rushing back to you. Before you know it, the cookie is gone. The craving is satisfied... but at what price?

Okay, so I know the scene above is highly dramatized, but seriously, there's a pretty intense battle going on in my head every time I see ANY delicious, great smelling gluten filled dessert or bread. Sometimes when I see my own family members eating it in front of me, it's really hard to say no. There have even been times when my mom has jokingly told me that I can eat it and then spit it out or lick it just to taste the flavor.  I can't tell you how many times I've been tempted by the offer!

So what's the big deal? Why not eat a little bit just to satisfy a craving? Just a little bit shouldn't hurt, right? 

This is absolutely, positively wrong!  

No matter HOW much you are tempted by the gluten, you have to learn and accept that gluten isn't a friend. Gluten will cause damage to your intestine and hurt your body. No matter how great the craving, the pain in the end isn't worth it, my friend. I guarantee this. 

I know by word of mouth some people who have celiacs but still eat an occasional pizza or cake just to satisfy the craving. Plus, I'm sure it doesn't help when you see a bunch of people around you enjoying what you can't have. It's a drag, really.

But, I'm telling you now to do yourself and your body a favor and just don't eat it. You're doing much more than just satisfying a little craving. A little now can become just a little bit more the next time, and slightly larger the next time, and the next time after that, and the next time after that, and..... you get what I mean. Reintroducing gluten after you've gone on the diet is simply counterproductive. Going on the gfree diet isn't something to be taken lightly, although many people who don't have to eat gfree sometimes don't understand this very important fact. With celiacs, "cheating" by eating some occasional gluten should not be allowed if you want your body to heal from all the damage.

Of course, cross contamination is the hardest aspect of the gfree diet to avoid, but I'm talking about the premeditation of choosing to eat gluten and executing that action by your own will just for the sake of satisfying a momentary craving.

So with all that said, what can you do to fight the urge? Here are some tips I've found useful in avoiding those nasty little gluten buggers!

1) Pain before gain. This common phrase can be put to good use in terms of avoiding gluten in a gluten-filled world. Every time you ingest some gluten, just know that you're gonna reap the consequences of your actions. Even though you gain the pleasure of eating that gluten snack to satisfy the momentary craving, just remember that the pain will follow very closely behind.

2) Just imagine it! I literally imagine whatever I'm eating go down and wreak havoc on my poor intestine. Just think about the poor villi being singed to death by the gluten and you'll never want to eat another gluten- filled crumb again.

3) Find a gfree buddy (or at least a friend, loved one, or family who you can trust to restrain you). Thank goodness my bestie T and I keep each other in check to prevent the temptation from taking over. Often times having someone next to you who supports you in your diet does wonders to help you avoid the very thing causing you pain.

4) Fill your tummy with safe, gfree food before tackling any situation where gluten may be present. If you find yourself heading out to eat with friends or if you're in any type of social situation where you believe gluten will be present (probably every time!) then make sure to eat beforehand if you're not sure if there will be gfree food. I've mentioned this in several posts before, but always bring a gfree snack in your bag or on your person just in case there's no food for you to eat wherever you happen to go. If you're full, chances are you'll be less likely to eat something that you'll regret later.

5) Challenge a non-gfree eater to eat gluten free with you for a week.  You'll have to scout someone exceptionally special for this task. Why? Because eating gfree for a non-gfree eater might be one of the hardest things they'll ever do. But, I promise you, this option is actually pretty fun and you might get it a kick out of it. Not only will you and your friend challenge each other to eat completely gfree and keep each other in check, but your non-gfree friend will also learn more about going gfree. Spreading awareness about celiac disease and gfree diets will not only raise awareness but also you'll have lots of great memories from the experience!

These are just some of many ideas to avoid gluten. I would love to hear your thoughts on how you avoid gluten or fight the temptation in your daily lives!

Live fully and healthily,

Sticky Situation #2: I've never heard of gluten!
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! 

Until next post,

Here's the first of the postings entitled, "Sticky Situations" in which either Tiff or I will try and give some advice as to how to easily deal with certain gfree situations that you may find yourself facing.

Sticky Situation #1
You're going to a social/party and of course, there's food. The problem is, most of the finger food is most likely not gfree or its contaminated in some way. You feel bad when people offer you food and you say no for your own safety, but it makes it seem like you're not enjoying yourself or the food tastes bad. What do you do?

Okay, so I can speak from experience that this kind of situation happens ALL the time. Here are some quick tips to stay safe, not make your host/hostess feel bad or obligated to serve you gfree food, and to still have a good time.

  • If it's a dinner and you're not sure if you can eat anything, you can contact the host/hostess ahead of time and ask what food he or she is serving. Depending on your sensitivity to gluten, chances are that if the food is naturally gfree, some contamination won't send your stomach rollicking. However, if you are highly sensitive, it would be best to eat/cook before going and kindly explain to the host/hostess that you have eaten beforehand since you have a restrictive diet and will not be needing them to prepare your portion. They may feel bad and try to change their menu for you, but insist that it is not necessary. The best way that I have found is to offer to bring/cook something gfree to bring to the party so that not only you can eat it (since it's safe) but everyone else can enjoy it too and you won't be left not eating when everyone else is eating! 
  • Speaking of snacks... most parties have finger foods that are made entirely of gluten/wheat: crackers, quiches, breaded mozzarella sticks, cream puffs, cake, cookies, pretzels, you name it! Even if the dish is gfree, say some kind of dipping sauce, you can't be sure its 100% safe since other people tend to not be as careful and like to "double dip" or maybe in triple or quadruple dip. Crumbs from food containing gluten may be indirectly and unknowingly ingested by you, and then you get sick. The number one golden rule for gfreers is: WHEN IN DOUBT, JUST DON'T EAT IT. It's better to be hungry, than to be sick. Trust me. I always suggest having gfree snacks in your purse or bag in case you get the munchies. Bringing gfree snacks to share is cool too! I've found that many snacks that I used to eat before I was diagnosed were naturally gfree (ie popcorn, some veggie chips) and people won't think your snack is weird since it doesn't have the words GFREE sprawled across the label (although I like when food companies are super clear like that!!)
  • If people offer you food that you know you can't eat, don't just say no. Kindly explain that you have a gluten allergy and that the item they offered you is not safe for you to eat. You don't really need to go into alot of detail about your diagnosis and the history of how you became a gfree eater (although most people I talk to are highly interested, and so I'll tell them). Let them know that they don't have to go out of their way to serve you or bring/make you food because you either ate beforehand or have food with you. They'll still feel bad, but at least they won't feel like it's their fault they gave you food that made you sick (which is much worse in my opinion)!       
Summary/ Take Away
1) Eat before going to a party/hang out since you can't be sure of contamination or if safe food will be provided.
2) BYOGS- Bring your own gfree snacks! Bring gfree snacks to share too! :)
3) If someone offers you food, tell them gently that you can't eat it because you have a food allergy. Make them not feel bad by saying you ate beforehand or you have snacks you brought that you can eat. Try not to overwhelm someone with your gfree history unless they want to know. Never assume they want to hear about your medical history!
4) WHEN IN DOUBT, DON'T EAT IT!! It's not worth even if it looks incredibly tasty and everyone else is eating it. Getting sick is much worse and its a downer to any party.

Good luck and eat safely!



Great tips. This is one of the tougher areas to tackle when eating gluten-free and trying to keep safe!

Thank you! Please look forward to more updates to this section in the near future! :)

I feel like I need to print this out on a little card and keep it with me at all times. :) I face these "sticky situations" every day it seems. I really agree with what you were saying with keeping those GF snacks with me on the go, because the hardest is being with other people in social situations and just having that "weak" moment when I think "your just making all this up in your head, one bite won't hurt...." Then of course it does hurt.... Thank you again for your care and help and advice, keep it coming....