I’m a diagnosed celiac and I live every day gluten free, and I will for the rest of my life. Sometimes it’s easy to feel alone, but the growing number of people who are gluten free for medical or health reasons make me feel like I’m not alone. Even though there are a lot of us out there, there are still things that only gluten-free people really understand. Here are my top 10 things that you might get a chuckle out of, that no one else really gets.
1. Having to explain what gluten is at least 10 times a day to various people.
t Gluten is a protein found in wheat, rye, barley and derivatives. It’s found primarily in food, but also in bath and beauty products. It’s a problem for those who are gluten intolerant or those with celiac disease, about 1 in 133 people.
2. Searching for a gluten-free certification seal on a package in the grocery store like it’s the holy grail.
t There are three main certification seals that those with celiac disease seek out. These seals on products in the grocery store show that the company has gone above and beyond, testing their products for gluten and following good manufacturing processes. However, finding these products in a regular grocery store is like going on a treasure hunt!
3. Always carrying enough food in your purse to last an entire day.
t Sometimes I look in my purse at the end of the day and find complete meals in there! I always try to take a protein bar, a jerky stick and cookies and crackers just in case I get caught somewhere, hungry, without safe food around. I often share this safe food with friends that might not have prepared so well.
4. Reading every single label of everything you pick up in the grocery store to make sure it’s safe.
t A trip to the grocery store can be like going to the library. You see a package you like, you pick it up, and scan the ingredient list and read the manufacturing practices listed on the product. If it’s vague, chances are you hit up your iPhone and Google the heck out of it to make sure it’s safe. You can spend hours in a grocery store reading.
5. Rolling your eyes when you hear that gluten-free is a weight-loss diet.
t Gluten-free is not a weight loss diet, repeat, not a weight loss diet! For me, it’s a life-saving, medically-necessary diet that I have to be on 24/7 for the rest of my life to make sure my autoimmune disease is under control. There are a lot of fad dieters that think that a gluten-free cookie is somehow magically less caloric than a gluten-full cookie, and it’s not true! A cookie is a cookie and a brownie is a brownie. There’s no need to go gluten-free unless you need it to feel better for a medical condition like gluten intolerance, celiac or other medical issues that cause digestive distress or can be helped by inflammatory foods.
6. When someone tells you, “it’s OK… it’s white bread!”
t White bread still has gluten. Wheat bread still has gluten. All breads, except for those labeled gluten-free, are full of the magical protein gluten. Trust me, we’ll know the difference the second we put it in our mouths.
7. Having to explain just how big 20ppm is, and trying to find a metaphor that people can actually understand without getting frustrated.
t Twenty parts of gluten per million is the most a gluten-free product can have in it to be labeled gluten free by the FDA. Imagine 1 million marbles. Now imagine 20 of those marbles were white and the rest of the marbles were blue. Those white marbles would be the maximum amount of gluten allowed for those marbles (or crumbs of bread, etc.) to be able to be labeled gluten free. Regarldess of how you explain it to people, it’s a very small amount of gluten that’s actually allowed in everyday food for it to be labeled gluten-free. Before we blow your mind too much, zero parts per million of gluten is relatively impossible because of how food is grown, manufactured and processed. This is the limit that the FDA put in place to keep us as safe as possible in the wild wild west of packaged goods.
8. Having to avoid things when people say, “I think this is safe?” (You can tell it’s actually a question mark because of how they inflect their voice at the end of the sentence and how they kind of shrug their shoulders.)
t If you don’t know if it’s 100 percent safe for someone who is gluten-free, don’t bother offering it to us. While we appreciate you making something great for us in your home, unless you are careful and take precautions in your own kitchen with how you prepare it and what you prepare it with, we can’t take the risk.
9. You find out who your real friends are based on how much they respect your need to stay safe.
t We know it’s kind of annoying that we have a limited choice of restaurants that we feel safe actually dining out at; it’s annoying for us too. We know it’s hard when we turn down all of those cookies you bake for us; it sucks for us too. But finding real friends who understand this and still love us for what we are, humans (with a wacko immune system), we love you back.
10. What it’s like to be different from almost everyone you meet, until you meet another gluten-free person that’s just like you!
t We often feel excluded, unique (not in a good way), and not part of the cool kids’ club, until we meet someone who eats just like we do, deals with the same health issues and we finally feel like we’re not alone!
t What else do only gluten-free people understand?