Gluten-Free Grumbles

Image Source: Rebecca Giansante

I am gluten intolerant.  It’s not exactly an allergy I won’t have a horribly violent reaction if I eat it, but I will get one heck of a migraine.  My mom and sister are also gluten intolerant. It’s made life more… challenging, and expensive.

For my fellows out there who also cannot eat gluten (or choose not to eat it), I hope that sharing some of my experiences in the last several years of being gluten-free will help you keep healthy in avoiding this allergen, and also help keep your food choices less limited.

If possible, I always check a restaurant’s menu online before going to eat there.  A lot more places have gluten-free options now, but it’s better to be safe and check. Even places that have gluten-free choices may have very limited options. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want my options to be limited to three or four salads. Once there, when they ask you if it’s a preference or an allergy (which a lot of places do), and you have a sensitivity but not a really bad allergy, tell them it’s an allergy anyway because that way, you’re less likely to end up suffering from some contamination. From my experience, if you don’t say it’s a flat out allergy, they will get pretty careless, and you might end up with gluten all over your gluten-free pizza. Also, big tip, Japanese restaurants are a pretty safe bet for gluten-free food (just avoid the soy sauce since they add wheat).

Bringing your own food might quickly become normal if you adopt the gluten-free lifestyle. If not, I still recommend it. I have ended up at so many places were there were promises of gluten-free food, only to get there and find there wasn’t actually any or that it was not nearly enough. An example would be a gluten-free version of a sandwich simply being deli meat and the fixing put between some shredded lettuce (which is extremely messy), and without the bread, it’s far from satisfying hunger. Also, it’s a good idea to carry gluten-free snacks with you. It’s not like you have to carry around a loaf of gluten-free bread, but some fruit and nut bars or a small bag of popcorn could be a big help if you know you’re going to be out for a while.

The biggest thing I have learned to do, and it was the hard way after suffering from countless headaches, is to be wary of food that doesn’t list wheat as an allergen but does not say it’s gluten-free. There could be contamination or some other ingredients containing gluten.  Watch out for a warning of shared equipment too. It’s a gamble with such products. I have been fine with one bag of shared product chips, and then the next bag, I get an awful headache. How careful you should be should depend on how sensitive or allergic you are (and how badly you want the food item), but I’ve started avoiding shared equipment food all together.

Being gluten-free is rough and a lot of us have no choice. It’s cool if you’ve chosen to not eat gluten, and I respect that because I probably would not have chosen to have a gluten-free diet if it were not for my intolerance. In either case, chosen or forced, I am hopeful this piece contains useful information for another person out there who has been gluten-free for a while, or is just beginning the lifestyle.