Breaking Down the Gluten Free Diet

"What even is gluten? Gluten's just in bread right? It's enough for something to just say it's gluten free! What do you even eat? Vegetables? Wow you have to be gluten free your life sucks."

These are all things I hear on a daily basis. There are a lot of misconceptions and fake news out there about what it means to be gluten free, so today I'm going to set some of those facts straight from the perspective of someone with not a gluten allergy, but celiac disease. So buckle up, it's gonna be a wild one.

What is gluten? 

Technically gluten is a protein that is typically found in bread and pasta because it is found in wheat. It's also used as a preservative and anti caking agent in a lot of things that you'd never think of, but we'll get to that later. Ok then what is Celiac? An allergy?

Ok, common misconception. Celiac isn't an allergy at all. It's an autoimmune disease that means a person who has celiac can't break down gluten, so it causes a lot of additional health problems, like not being able to absorb nutrients from your food. If you don't make the GF diet change (lifestyle change) and exercise and take your vitamins, these issues can be really scary! For example, if I personally get something that has gluten in it or was cross contaminated I break out in blisters all over my body along with some other pretty gross symptoms. 

 What's the difference in just being gluten free and having a gluten allergy or celiac?

Cross contamination pretty much. And the fact is, a person who's just being gluten free for the fad of it or they think bread makes them fat can eat gluten and be pretty much fine. But when you have an allergy or celiac and go to a restaurant if they don't prepare your food in a gluten free section of the kitchen or take extra steps to make sure your food doesn't come into contact with anything it shouldn't, you could get really really sick really really quickly. So, if you're GF for preference, researching the  food prep practices of every restaurant you go to isn't a big deal, but if you have to live that way, you probably know more than you'd like to about every restaurant in your town. 

What's cross contamination?

It's basically when your GF food comes into contact with gluten or unclean utensils that have gluten on them. As crazy as it seems a microscopic amount of gluten can send someone with celiac into an autoimmune response that could last for days or even weeks. 

What has gluten?

Basically everything... okay that's dramatic, but it is a lot! So I'll just list some of them out here... 

Bread, pasta, pizza, baked goods, buns, hush puppies, cheesecake filling, soy sauce, teriyaki sauce, ginger sauce, some bbq sauces, some grits, some oatmeal, most cereals, Kit-Kats, Some potato chips, some tortilla chips, flour tortillas, granola bars, beef/chicken stock, beef bullion, imitation bacon bits, some sausage, some sandwich meat, some salad dressings, canned soups, mixed seasoning packets, taco seasoning packs, blue cheese, Peeps on a stick, ice cream with baked goods/kit-kats/other toppings in it, candy that's made in different factories during the holidays, some sprinkles, some flavor syrups for coffees like the ones at Starbucks, some coffee creamers, most hotdogs, bologna, gravy, some puddings/jellos, some marshmallows, some bags of cheese, Some vitamins and over the counter drugs, some lipsticks.  That's just a few of the things.I feel you Kourtney... Ironically she's talking about how she'd rather die than eat gluten, sooo there. 

Dang that sucks what can you eat?

A lot of things actually. Most of the stuff listed above has a gluten free version of some kind. Now are all of them as good as the original? Absolutely not! But some of them are better! Some things like the bags of cheese are because it's used as an anti-caking agent so there's still plenty of choices in cheese! UTZ chips are always gluten free, for example. Starbucks has a very detailed list for allergies so you know what drinks to avoid. Chipotle only has two things in the whole restaurant that aren't gluten free! Honestly, I do eat a lot of fruits and vegetables because they're so much better for you anyway. 

That seems really overwhelming?

It is. Thanks for noticing.

What can you do to make it easier?

 There are a ton of apps out there to help people with gluten allergies and celiac keep up a normal social life and not have meltdowns in the middle of the grocery store.

Find Me Gluten Free- This app helps you find restaurants near you and even has reviews of the staff's reaction to your requests, the cross contamination practices, the actual flavor and if someone had a reaction or not. There are even international info cards that you can show to your waiter or waitress if you're traveling abroad somewhere!

The Gluten Free ScannerThis app lets you scan things in the grocery store and it clearly shows up as if it's okay or not. There's a free version and a purchase version. I recommend the purchase for celiacs! 

Now Find Gluten Free (NF Gluten Free)- This app and website helps you search for products that are gluten free. Like if I wanted GF Bologna I would search it and it would tell me what brands are GF. It's pretty miraculous and is a perfect app to pair with the scanner. 

Things to stop saying to people when you find out they're gluten free

Anything that's not supportive basically. Don't tell me it sucks because yeah dude, obviously it sucks. It's not how anyone would choose to live their life because it really makes things a pain in the ass. Don't look at me when I tell you and go "oh so you're like a health nut?" No I'm really not. I'll wreck a cheeseburger or a pizza faster than most men twice my size, so settle down. Don't ask if I can eat gluten sometimes because, no, I can't. That should be obvious. Would you say that to someone with a peanut allergy? Stop offering me doughnuts Susan, you know I can't have them and you're just honestly being rude. If you invite someone over for dinner that you KNOW has celiac and you don't make a gluten free meal and you aren't careful then you're an ass hole. That's basically all there is to it. GF doesn't mean expensive or hard to do, so please for the sake of God, stop acting like it does. If you make a meal that's not gluten free, don't suggest that they pick around the gluten either because that's not how it works. That's not how any of this works. Try being thoughtful or at least apologizing. Don't go "you'll just have to pick around it" because actually I don't have to. 

Can we all agree to stop being mean to people with gluten allergies because hipsters ruined it for everyone? And to the hipsters who are just doing it because it's cool.... STOP IT. Please lord baby Jesus stop it. You're the reason that people roll their eyes when I ask for the gluten free menu or don't take my request seriously and my food gets messed up. So just stop. I don't know why that started but it's time has gone just like using typewriters ironically. Because honestly if one more person rolls their eyes at me when I say something about being gluten free or ask for the menu I'm probably going to lose my whole mind. Anyway, there's the in's and out's of it all. I know it's a ton of information, but just remember that next time you roll your eyes because your sorority sister or roommate or whatever asks you to be more careful about keeping the kitchen clean or they request to not go to a particular restaurant even if they have $2 margs. Your friends will thank you because someone who isn't rude about it is pretty hard to come by and they might even buy your marg for you!



My life experience as a celiac.