Real Stories: Allergic to GlutenPublished on Tuesday, December 06, 2022 by
Do you struggle with a gluten allergy or suspect you may have one?
This can be a confusing and somewhat scary time as you are navigating through a big change.
To help you traverse through this period, I spent some time interviewing a friend/coworker of mine, Bethany, who has been living with a gluten allergy for the past eleven years.
She walked me through how she received her diagnosis and the challenges she faces, and gave some real-life tips on how to manage the allergy when traveling or participating in holidays or special events.
One of the biggest constraints one may face is that people just don’t know or recognize what gluten actually is.
According to the Oxford Learner’s Dictionaries- gluten is a sticky substance that is a mixture of two proteins and is left when starch is removed from flour, especially wheat flour. Gluten is found in wheat, barley, and rye, and many products contain these foods or mixtures of them.
Bethany had initially suffered from migraines and thought her GI issues were a side effect of her migraines. Once she was able to get her migraines under control her GI issues continued, so she tried to eliminate gluten. Her GI issues began going away and realized gluten was what was attributed to them. She was tested for celiac disease, but she had already been eliminating gluten from her diet which made the testing ineffective.
Another thing Bethany suffered from was B-12 deficiency and she began receiving B-12 injections bi-weekly. Once she eliminated gluten, her B-12 was corrected and she was able to stop injections. This told her she was not absorbing everything she was ingesting due to the inflammation she had from the gluten allergy.
I asked Bethany what difficulties she has found over the years as well as things she has found helpful to overcome some of these adversities. Traveling was the biggest hurdle she had to overcome with having a food allergy. Another was going to special events or holiday parties at other locations. She said that finding food on long drives or when flying can be very difficult if you go without a plan. Another issue is trusting that family and others are preparing foods correctly and understanding what gluten-containing foods are.
A great tip from Bethany is to pack safe snacks or already know safe places to stop.
She does her research before going anywhere to determine what restaurants are along the route that also has gluten-free options or even menus. With gluten allergy becoming more prevalent there are more locations and products out there to choose from. Did you know that PF Chang’s has a whole separate cooking area for preparing non-allergen foods? Chick-fil-a uses separate fryers and gluten-free buns. She also uses the website findmeglutenfree.com (which also has an app!) or finds restaurant reviews regarding gluten-free menu items.
If you are staying with family for an extended period of time you could bring your own ingredients for recipes as well as make a trip to the grocery store once you have arrived to purchase allergen-free food items.
Bethany will often travel with her gluten-free flour. Her choice is Bob’s Red Mill 1:1 Gluten-Free Baking Flour. She has also found some great recipes on the blog titled, “Gluten Free on a Shoestring”. She also likes to get Chex cereal to have a simple and easy breakfast option.
Another great suggestion she had is that if you are going to a local event - prepare a side dish or dessert so you know there is at least one safe thing for you to eat. In general, the vegetable and meat options are typically gluten-free, however, it is nice to have more than just those as a food option and cross-contamination is always a concern. Bethany did admit that sometimes it is hard because there are foods she used to eat that she misses, but she has found ways to alter family recipes to make them gluten-free.
She also mentioned when using gluten-free flour that products can end up very dry. Bethany suggests using a moistening agent such as sour cream, buttermilk, or applesauce to counteract depending on the product you are making.
When traveling, make sure you do your research. It may take a little time, but it will be worth it when you are hungry and want to grab a bite to eat. You may even get lucky and find a lovely gluten-free bakery such as JP’s located in Benson, North Carolina. Take a cooler and stock up on cookies, bread, and other tasty, gluten-free treats.
- Gluten noun - definition, pictures, pronunciation and usage notes: Oxford Advanced American Dictionary at Oxfordlearnersdictionaries.com. gluten noun - Definition, pictures, pronunciation and usage notes | Oxford Advanced American Dictionary at OxfordLearnersDictionaries.com. (n.d.). Retrieved November 28, 2022, from https://www.oxfordlearnersdictionaries.com/us/definition/american_english/gluten
- Vitamin B12 deficiency: Symptoms, causes & treatment. Cleveland Clinic. (n.d.). Retrieved November 28, 2022, from https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/22831-vitamin-b12-deficiency
- Leonard, M. M., & Vasagar, B. (2014). US perspective on gluten-related diseases. Clinical and experimental gastroenterology, 7, 25–37. https://doi.org/10.2147/CEG.S54567
Kari TallentMA, RD