Gluten Free… Don’t Judge Me

I have been gluten free for just over 10 years.  I do this out of necessity, not because it’s soooo much fun.  I have Celiac Disease (CD).  And whilst I am on the subject (because that is what this post is about), let me clarify a few things for the less enlightened.

  • CD is an autoimmune disease; my body attacks itself
  • CD is not an allergy to wheat… that’s a whole different kettle of fish
  • There is no cure for CD; only treatment
  • There are five grains (and anything derived from these grains) that adversely affect those with CD: Wheat, Rye, Barley, Spelt and Kamut
  • Gluten is a protein; it is a naturally occurring substance that helps bind baked goods (makes them not be crumbly)
  • Yes, there is such a thing as corn gluten, but most people with CD are not adversely affected by it.  Sadly, I am not one of those people.
  • It is not Celiac’s or Celiacs, it is neither plural nor is it possessive
  • I “have” CD – I am not a “Celiac”; my illness does not define me
  • I do not “suffer” from CD; I live with it, quite successfully – Every day
  • There is no “cheating” when you have CD
  • Straying from a 100% gluten free diet leads to debilitating repercussions – those repercussions are prefixed with words like “explosive” and “projectile” and “excruciating”

I don’t blame the average-Joe for being ignorant to the facts of CD; there is no one to blame.  Unless you have the illness or know someone who does, how could you possibly know all the nitty-gritty details?

It is disappointing that many family physicians are sorely prepared to assist their patients in navigating through the first weeks and months of their newly diagnosed illness.  My own family doc was quite honest with me when he said “…I have no idea what to tell you.  I don’t know anything about Celiac Disease, so we’ll learn together.”

There are an unfortunate number of bloggers, opinionaters and GF haters out there, on the interwebs and in mainstream media, who poo-poo the idea of eating gluten free because “it’s a fad diet”.  Some of the nay-sayers add the proviso “… unless you really are gluten intolerant” to their rants.  Most people reading these types of articles tend to gloss right over that.  I am constantly being forwarded print and web articles on why I should NOT be eating GF.

I often hear comments like:

  • But it’s just a few crumbs
  • Just scrape the gluten stuff off… you’ll be fine
  • How bad could it be, really?
  • You mean that’s a real thing?

And my all-time favourite…

  • “Well it’s not like it’s going to kill you” (said to my face, by a waiter in the restaurant at the Metropolitan Hotel in downtown Toronto), to which I responded “Well it’s not like you’re getting a tip” (confession: I might have been a little too heavy on the snark with that response)

Those of us who have CD make some serious, life-altering changes to our diets (and by diet I am referring to the original meaning of the word “…the food and drink that a person or animal regularly consumes.”  These changes drastically improve our health and our lives.  In the beginning it is difficult, but eventually, the choices we make about with what we nourish ourselves becomes second nature.  We do it automatically.  It ain’t no big thing; but it starts out very scary.

The best thing that you can do for your newly diagnosed friend or loved one is to be supportive.  They are going through a difficult time and will need your encouragement.

Do not abandon us, don’t forget about us when you have dinner parties or potlucks.  We’ll bring our own eats, we’re okay with that.

If you decide that you would like to venture into the world of gluten free cooking, you will discover how incredibly easy it is to accommodate us.  Did you know that all fruits, vegetables and meats (the real stuff, not that canned crap) are naturally gluten free?  We’d be delighted to give you a few pointers on spices and seasonings; all you have to do is ask.

There is a silver lining to this dark Celiac Disease cloud; we make much better food choices.  Rolling up to a drive through and ordering a burger and fries is no longer an option.  Timmies and Subway and Quizno’s; no longer an option.  McDonalds and Wendy’s are about the only fast food places we can eat; and we get to order salad.  No more canned and heavily process foods laden with excessive amounts of sodium.  This is not a bad thing.

I will continue to eat gluten free for the rest of my life, because if I don’t, there won’t be much of a life left to live.

Now that you are enlightened in the ways of the truly and seriously gluten free, you are free to move about the universe.  Be well my friends.

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