7 Tips for Dating on a Gluten-Free DietPublished on Wednesday, November 30, 2022 by
Celiac disease is an immune reaction against intestinal cells in response to eating gluten, an infamous protein found in grains such as wheat, barley, and rye.
Celiac disease does not have a cure, but a strictly gluten-free diet helps manage symptoms, prevent complications, and promote healing for most patients.
And there's the rub: someone with celiac disease can trigger a symptom flare with a very small amount of gluten according to the FDA. Eating around croutons, removing the bun from the burger, or ordering chips fried next to onion rings simply will not cut it for those with celiac disease.
So, to no one’s surprise, a 2022 study by researchers at Columbia University found that celiac disease had a moderate-to-major impact on dating. Many participants found it uncomfortable explaining precautions to waiters or engaged in riskier eating behaviors while on dates. Several intentionally consumed gluten.
Unfortunately, when people with celiac disease do not maintain a gluten-free diet, it can lead to some gnarly consequences according to leading Celiac disease researchers at the Mayo Clinic:
- Gastrointestinal problems such as diarrhea, bloating, gas, nausea, vomiting, constipation, oral ulcers, lactose intolerance
- Malnutrition such as malabsorption-related weight loss, growth problems, bone density loss, and anemia
- Neurological problems such as nerve injury, seizures, cognitive impairment, neurological disorders, irritability, learning disabilities, and lack of muscle coordination
- Extraintestinal problems such as fatigue, blistering rashes, infertility, miscarriage, headaches, joint pain, and reduced spleen function
- Increased risk of intestinal lymphoma and small bowel cancer
Here are 7 tips that can help you balance dating with a gluten-free diet:
1. Reach out to a local GI RDN. Whether you are new to a gluten-free diet or new to a city, local experts can give you the insider scoop on the best gluten-free spots that can cater to patrons with celiac disease.
2. Be transparent as early as possible with the person you are dating. If you need to be gluten-free to live a long and healthy life, then your potential partner deserves to know what it entails. Talk about:
- What foods you can and can't eat
- Cross contamination at home or restaurants
- How you handle restaurants and social events
- How you feel about following a gluten-free diet
Eventually, your partner may share the burden and help advocate for you, which can be such a blessing.
3. Plan dates where you can bring food that you know is gluten-free. Good options are a hike, a beach day, or a picnic.
4. Plan and cook your favorite gluten-free meals together at home for a good old-fashioned candlelit dinner.
5. Go for an activity date where food isn’t the main focus. Bowling, golfing, or an old-school drive-in movie are my favorites.
6. When you’re eating out- you pick the restaurant options. Not every restaurant can accommodate a gluten-free diet, and the best time to ask is long before you arrive. FindMeGlutenFree is a helpful website to find restaurants that might accommodate a gluten-free diet, however, it is still best practice to call ahead of time because menus, practices, and recipes change.
Remember to ask about cross-contamination; for example, do they use the same fryers or boiling water for gluten-free and gluten-containing items?
7. Always be kind and gracious to servers. It is frustrating to hear that what you would like to eat cannot be made gluten-free, but servers who put your safety first are providing excellent service to you.
On the other hand, if you’re served food suspicious of gluten-containing ingredients, speak up with poise and respect. Even the best restaurants sometimes make mistakes. Neither the restaurant nor your date would want you to be sick and it is more than okay to (kindly and firmly) advocate for your needs.
- Mayo Clinic Staff. (2021, August 10). Celiac Disease. Mayo Clinic. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/celiac-disease/symptoms-causes/syc-20352220
- U. S. Food and Drug Administration. Office of Food Safety. Center of Food Safety and Applied Nutrition. (2011). Health hazard assessment for gluten exposure in individuals with celiac disease: determination of tolerable daily intake levels and levels of concern for gluten. Silver Spring, MD. https://www.fda.gov/media/81500/download.
- Lebovits, J., Lee, A. R., Ciaccio, E. J., Wolf, R. L., Davies, R. H., Cerino, C., Lebwohl, B., & Green, P. (2022). Impact of Celiac Disease on Dating. Digestive diseases and sciences, 67(11), 5158–5167. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10620-022-07548-y
Elyse KrawtzMS, RDN, CSOWM, LD