We all take risks. Whether it is in our personal lives by putting our hearts on the line in a new relationship, jumping off a rock cliff into cool waters, running with the bulls in Pamplona, attending a new class at the gym, or by driving over the speed limit in our cars, but those are risks everyone takes. I want to talk about risks with celiac disease.
We all know the drill. Once diagnosed with celiac disease, there are more risks than I probably ever imagined. Eat a strict gluten free diet or there will be both immediate and long term consequences. Immediate consequences like gastrointestinal distress (either constipation or diarrhea), vomiting, fatigue, headaches, an a myriad of others. Then we also have the long terms risks hanging over our heads, like shortened life spans, malnutrition, osteoporosis, and potentially celiac-related cancers.
Every day, at least three times a day we must mitigate the risks to our health and eat.
Sometimes eating is easy. We are at home or other safe place and have confidence the the meal we are about to eat is 100% gluten free. The grass-fed, organic protein, certified gluten free grain, organic produce grown in our own garden is safe, and cooked in our 100% gluten free house. But lots and lots of us cannot meet this standard at every meal. We leave our houses. We can’t or don’t want to afford grass fed proteins or to have a gluten free home. How do we mitigate those risks and maintain a gluten free diet?
For me, I’m taking less risk now than ever before because I’m eating more of our meals at home. Because I’m not running around delivering children to all of their activities, I don’t run through my favorite safe fast food restaurant any more to grab a snack. I’ve got the whole fridge to pull an orange or an apple out for a snack.
I can tell you what I do and how we live, but that may not be right for you and your family. But let’s talk about some generic ways to keep yourself safe.
I was going to talk about travel and restaurants here, but that is sort of moot with most restaurants still limiting in person dining. Many restaurants are offering takeout only and that makes it exponentially more difficult for us to get a safe meal. I think unless you know of a restaurant’s gluten free protocols and have patronized them before, this might not be the best time to branch out. Again, that is just me and you might have a different opinion, but unless I found a new 100% gluten free restaurant, I’m probably not up for anything new.
With travel and restaurants gone, let’s talk about eating at home.
Unmarinated proteins, whole fruits and vegetables, products marked certified gluten free, potatoes, and certified gluten free grains like quinoa and rice should be the go to staples in the house. This is the safest way to eat. The least risky.
Then we get into more risky foods – like foods that aren’t marked gluten free but have no gluten containing ingredients. This is where a lot of knowledge, research, and experience come into play. One has to know the secret places gluten can hide or its alternative names – “spices” can be an issue for some. Another method for researching is by doing a quick search of the product on the manufacturer’s website to give you additional information about the gluten content of the product.
Then there is experience and this method of determining if something is safe is the least reliable. Symptoms of gluten exposure could be from a variety of things – gluten exposure or not. Also, ingredients can change from one batch of the product to the next and one time it is safe and the other it isn’t. It’s just too hard to use this as a mechanism to determine if something is safe. And if it isn’t safe, you get to suffer the consequences of that decision.
So, just be careful out there and mitigate risk where you can. Occasionally, we all slip up and make mistakes. Or we get into a situation where we have to make the choice between two bad options. It is the other times, where you know you can keep yourself safe where you really gain ground on this disease. So, stay safe, make great choices where you can, and be healthy.