6 Lessons on Being Safely Gluten Free Around Uninformed People

23 Apr

I went to my local farmer’s market last week and walked by a new stand that was selling gyzoas. I said to my boyfriend that I wish they were gluten free. And he said that I should ask, i.e. we were at a farmer’s market, it could very well be gluten free (not true however!) Anyways, I asked the girl, and she said that yes, they were indeed gluten free. She said that her brother was a health nut, and on a gluten free diet, and that she checked the ingredients for him. Then she said “no, there’s no wheat in them.” I asked her for an ingredient list (she buys the gyzoa wrappers!) and she said she didn’t have it with her, but I could find the package at Save-On across the street.

Farmer's Market Raspberries

Luckily, there's lot of things we can assume are gluten free at the Farmer's Market. Raspberries being among my favourites! Just be sure to give everything a good wash before consuming.

So, the bf and I went to Save-On and checked out the wrappers. The first ingredient? Flour!! So if I hadn’t trusted my gut instinct, and had a sample of the gyzoas, I would have been throwing up within half an hour and would have been sick and out of it for at least a week. It was a close call, and reinforced that I need to do research on my own, and not trust people who claim their product is gluten free. It’s too risky and I’ve already done enough “re-damage” since being diagnosed and having a few bad episodes of getting glutenized.

The moral of the story? I think we can take at least 5 lessons from this:

Lesson 1: Many people are a lot easier to claim a product as gluten free due to the new gluten free fad diet. I think this is because they assume it won’t harm someone on the diet. So make sure you communicate to someone (usually at a restaurant) that you have Celiac disease, and even consuming a speck of gluten will be very damaging.

Lesson 2: Many people think that if a product is wheat-free, that it’s gluten free. In my case, although the package said “flour”, it didn’t occur to the girl that the default “flour” in products is wheat flour. (Hello?!)

Lesson 3: This doesn’t relate directly to this particular anecdote, but lately I’ve been hearing about people confusing “wheat” as only referring to “whole wheat.” Pretty hard to believe but it’s true! The other day, someone on my Twitter stream mentioned that a doctor told them they could eat white bread, just not whole wheat bread. Um, run for your life!!!

Lesson 4: Don’t assume that people will know that Celiac disease goes beyond wheat to include barely, rye, and most oats (anything beyond pure, uncontaminated oats). A big one I find is anything that could have malt flavouring in it (sad -no more Mars bars!) Because of course, most malt come from barley malt flavouring.

Lesson 5: People tend to relate “natural” and “organic” to gluten free. I think this is because most gluten free packaged foods tend to also be organic. Even when it comes to cosmetic products! I went to Sephora awhile ago and told a sales lady that I was looking for some gluten free anti-aging face cream. (I didn’t expect her to know of anything right off the bat, but I thought I’d try it). She said “oh, so you mean ‘natural’!” I gave up and said “yes, natural”, and ended up buying a very nice gluten free face cream that had a rose scent to it. When all said and done, when it comes to any food (or body product), read the label, even if the product is natural. Of course, us Celiacs know this, but not everyone else does.

Lesson 6: Always trust your gut – literally, and figuratively!

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2 Responses to “6 Lessons on Being Safely Gluten Free Around Uninformed People”

  1. Lindsay Spencer April 23, 2010 at 1:09 pm #

    Great tips! It really is all about many people not knowing all the little things that we have to avoid. I was talking the manager of a restaurant the other day and she was so excited that they had created a gluten free tart. Unfortunately the crust was made with a mixture of oats. She had no idea oats were off limits unless certified gluten free and I would have potentially found out the hard way if I hadn’t asked for the ingredient list!

    • MB - The Lazy GF Chef April 23, 2010 at 1:51 pm #

      You’re right – it’s all the little things (that do big damage to us!) that count! If it was as simple as looking for the words “flour” or “wheat” on labels, there might be less chance of unfortunate dining incidents!

      Sometimes servers will offer to check the label of things for me, and I feel very high maintenance asking to see the label myself (and they sometimes get annoyed!), but checking the label myself has certainly helped me avoid gluten in the form of all those non-obvious ways of saying it! I know I need to get over my feeling of being a bother at restaurants, because it’s my health at stake, and it’s been a year now already!

      Tonight I’m going out with the bf for our anniversary; it will be a good practice for being clear about avoiding gluten at all costs!

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