Healthy Obsessions The Adventures of a Mild Obsessive Compulsive

No Really, I Can’t Eat Gluten

I am going to rant.

I just saw this. It’s a waitress’s rant about people claiming to have gluten allergies when they don’t. And I totally get it. I am sympathetic to her frustration. But she’s wrong.

This bit, this is where she’s wrong:

People with true gluten allergies or Celiac disease don’t go to an Italian restaurant and order the fettuccine alfredo* with gluten free pasta, because those with real allergies can’t take such a risk of cross-contamination.

I wish that were true. But it isn’t. You know why? There is nowhere else.

There are a miniscule few restaurants that are completely gluten free. People with celiac disease do end up eating at places with gluten, because there’s no other option. Where else are we going to go?

Your team at work is going out to lunch. What do you do? Fuss? Demand to go elsewhere? Where? Go and don’t eat? I’ve done that more than a few times. But you end up making everyone around you uncomfortable. Do you refuse to go? Great idea, that’ll do well for team building and career advancement.

People with celiac disease know going out to eat is a crapshoot. We know we’re going to get glutened. Maybe not this time, but next time. We know waiters will roll their eyes at us and refuse to believe it when we say we can’t have gluten. And that is  because of trendoid idiots who pull shit like what she describes in her rant. Saying they’re gluten free, but then asking for rolls. They’ve trained waiters not to take us seriously.

And you know what else sucks? When we get sick, it’s often hours later. So that waiter never knows they poisoned us. Because celiac disease is not an allergy, there is no immediate allergic response. No hives, no rush to the ER.

I’m allergic to peppers. Within minutes, I know if I’ve had them. My throat starts to swell and my neck breaks out in a rash. I get glutened? Nothing happens until my food gets to my intestine. And what happens there may not register enough to let me know my body is suffering. My villi are getting damaged, eaten away because of my autoimmune response to gluten. But you often don’t get symptoms until it’s too late. Until your villi are already worn away enough for you to notice. And you know how long it takes to grow them back? Months.

She’s absolutely right about how easily food gets contaminated. And about the risks of eating out. That’s why I was just in a study looking for a way to mitigate the damage of gluten contamination. Not to allow me (and others like me) to eat gluten again. Not like lactaid, that allows many people to consume foods with lactose. No. A medication to protect us from the constant exposure to gluten we deal with every damned day. It’s a big enough problem that a pharmaceutical company is funding research. Not for an OTC pill. For a prescription medication. One that will require you to get biopsies before it’s prescribed. I hope they succeed. I hate the fear, the dread of going out.

So I get it. I get why she’s so frustrated. Believe me, those trendy idiots frustrate me even more. But please, please, please… don’t just roll your eyes. Don’t assume the person at your table is lying. Give them the benefit of the doubt. They may be a trendoid idiot, or they may be me. Or someone like me.



*Addendum–well, we don’t order the fettucine alfredo because the alfredo sauce has gluten in it…

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