Hi everyone! I'm Amanda from Celiac and Allergy Adventures.
Today I'm guest blogging for The Allergista. Her blog is extremely informative and I am always sending people her way because she is a veritable fountain of knowledge on contact dermatitis and allergies, so I'm honored to be writing here.
I've had lifelong eczema, food and environmental allergies and more recently, Celiac Disease.
It seems if you ask the general population what Celiac Disease is, they have no clue. When you tell them it's an autoimmune disease whereby the ingestion of gluten leads to damage of the small intestines, you're met with a quizzical look. "Gluten" aptly comes from the Latin word for glue or from 17th century Middle French for "any sticky substance." It's the protein composite (from wheat, barley and rye) which gives elasticity and chewiness to baked goods, pasta, pizza and more. It does not have a taste per se, but it most certainly provides a unique texture to foods that is hard (but not impossible) to mimic.
Hopefully you never need to know more than that about gluten or Celiac Disease.
Being diagnosed with Celiac Disease can be life-changing. Gluten can be hidden in many foods and ingredients or it can appear more obviously as an ingredient in something which seems entirely illogical (Hello, Twizzlers?! Do you really need wheat flour?). When you're first diagnosed, it's critical that you familiarize yourself with a list of unsafe ingredients because right now, the FDA does not require that gluten be listed on an ingredient label, since it's not one of the top 8 allergens (though wheat IS). It's ideal to eat only fresh, unprocessed foods, especially early in your recovery when your intestines are still healing but not everyone has the time or desire to do that. Print out that pocket guide and carry it with you everywhere! When in doubt, (and at first, you will ALWAYS be in doubt), call the manufacturer. Manufacturers often source ingredients from different suppliers or change ingredients to make their product more affordable or better-tasting. They will have the most up-to-date information about any product.
After being diagnosed, it will feel like your life is turned upside down. It will feel like you're constantly making mistakes.. Don't be too hard on yourself! We all make mistakes at first and the following list is a great introduction of things to look for when you first go gluten-free.
1) Medication. ALL of it. Vitamins, over-the-counter, prescription. There is almost always a phone number listed on the package. And in fact, most numbers I've called have an option to inquire about the gluten-status. Even small amounts of gluten in medication can add up over time and you want to avoid this.
2) Your kitchen. This was the most stressful part for me. Like many other kitchens, we have a lot of non-stick pans, baking dishes, cookie sheets, muffin tins, etc.. Because they scratch easily, they can easily be a source of cross contamination. Toasters are a MAJOR source of cross-contamination. There are gluten-filled crumbs everywhere and it only takes a TINY amount, probably less than one crumb, to make start the process of damaging your intestines. It is absolutely essential that you have a separate toaster if you're going to be eating gluten-free bread. Also consider plastic ladles, wooden mixing spoons and colanders for straining pasta, because they too can be a source of cross-contamination. Silverware and plates and cups should be safe. I find stainless steel cookware to be safer as long as it's thoroughly cleaned after but I think it's best to err on the side of caution.
3) Beauty Products. At the bare minimum, you need to know that your chap-stick and hand cream are gluten-free. Your lips and hands touch your food, your food goes in your stomach. Later on, you may discover even other cosmetics or beauty products are bothering you. I found wheat germ oil in virtually every single hair product I owned. I touch my hair countless times a day so it was a no-brainer to switch to gluten-free hair products as well. Your individual sensitivity may vary but at the very least, make sure the things touching your mouth or food are gluten-free.
4) Your partner's mouth. Did he just eat a delicious, gluten-filled pizza? Then, YES, you can get "glutened" from kissing your partner. Say goodbye to spontaneity and say hello to less digestive problems! It's not romantic, but it's better than being ill all the time.
5) Your pet's food.My cat went grain free back when there was tainted wheat and grain products in pet food imported from China . But many pet foods and cat litters still contain wheat and other grains; in fact, there is a cat litter brand called Swheat. If your cat walks in it, then on your furniture or around your house or cuddles up next to you, it introduces the possibility of cross-contamination. Don't risk it.
Gluten is an insidious nemesis and we should always err on the side of caution.
The most important tips I can offer are educate yourself and when in doubt, say NO.