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Celiac disease

21 Struggles Only Gluten-Free People Understand

I’ve been gluten-free for nearly eight years. It’s been so long that I can hardly remember what life was like before celiac disease.

However, every day that I’m gluten-free, I’m reminded that it’s not easy being gluten-free. No, it’s not. There are real struggles gluten-free people have to face day-in and day-out. The struggle is real.

When you eat gluten-free — and when you are serious about eating gluten-free — you need to avoid all gluten. A low gluten diet will not benefit you, nor will a cheat here and there. Even just a crumb of gluten can set off an autoimmune attack in people with celiac disease, and can create chronic inflammation in those with non-celiac gluten sensitivity (and inflammation leads to disease). Even just a crumb of gluten can undo all of your hard work to reclaim your health and heal your body.

Again, it bears repeating that eating even a little gluten, regardless if you have celiac disease or if you are just gluten sensitive, will put you at risk for more autoimmune diseases, cancer and early death. You must avoid gluten at all costs if you truly want to benefit from the gluten-free diet.

Unfortunately, most gluten-eating people have little sympathy for the plight of a gluten-free dieter, mainly because they think the gluten-free diet is just a fad diet, or maybe they dis the gluten-free way of life because they want to feel better about the fact that they continue to eat gluten (even though gluten has been proven to create inflammation in all humans).

Whatever the case, gluten-free people face daily struggles to find gluten-free food, resist temptation to “cheat” on our diets, brush-off ridicule and ignore bad advice. We have to continue to justify the way we eat as we live in a world void of sympathy for the gluten-free eater.

Today I’d like to share with you 21 struggles that I think only gluten-free people will truly understand. Do you relate to any or all of these struggles?

1. Paying More for Less Food

Have you ever noticed that pizza places offer gluten-free pizza, but they give you a smaller pizza pie and charge you $2+ extra just because it’s gluten-free?

“I like paying more for less food,” said no gluten-free person ever!

2. I’m Not Trying to be Difficult, But…

If a salad comes with croutons mistakenly placed on it, I have to send it back. Not even a crumb of gluten can touch the plate and, no, I can’t just pick off the croutons. The same goes for burgers — I cannot just remove the bun and eat it because even a tiny bit of gluten causes an autoimmune reaction in my body. No thanks!

I’m not trying to be difficult when I send my food back and request one made (sans croutons or bun), but I sure do sound like a diva!

I’m also not trying to be difficult when I order a gluten-free meal and ask a million questions. I’m just trying to eat in a way that is good for me. A little understanding and accommodation goes a long way in helping me do that (and feel normal in the process).

3. Um, Rice is Actually Gluten-Free

Eating out when you’re gluten-free is full of fraught and frustration. So many servers have told me I can’t eat something because it has rice in it, however, rice is gluten-free.

Few people truly understand what is and isn’t gluten-free, so every time we eat out, we have to take precious time explaining and educating the staff on what we can and can’t eat. It’s exhausting.

4. Yes, I Have a Dozen Different Flours in My Pantry

Baking used to be so easy. I used to have just one flour (all-purpose wheat flour) in my pantry. But now, as someone who bakes exclusively gluten-free, I need and use a lot of different flours just to create the same cookies and breads as I used to do so easily back then.

I even have a container of xanthan gum in my freezer too — something I hadn’t heard of in my pre-celiac disease days.

Only gluten-free people understand the need for a variety of different flours, starches and gums to get a recipe to taste right and have the right texture and mouthfeel. And only gluten-free people have pantries full of quinoa flour, millet flour, rice flour, potato starch, tapioca starch, guar gum, etc.

5. Wait, There’s No Food For Me?

All us gluten-free folk have been in this exact situation. We’re at a wedding, special event or work conference and yep, there’s plenty of food for everyone else, but no gluten-free food for us (even if we requested it ahead of time). Ug!

This is a total bummer and an all-around uncomfortable situation for everyone.

The host didn’t think of me. My friends feel uncomfortable eating in front of me. And I’m stuck eating the emergency granola bar I keep in my purse for times like this — ho hum.

When I traveled to abroad earlier this year, I thought I had done everything right to ensure my tour operator would provide gluten-free meals with me. I contacted them ahead of time and spoke with several people to ensure I would be able to eat during my 10-day trip where I’d be at the whim of a tour operator.

What I found when I got to my destination was a whole ‘nother story. I was hungry, frustrated and emotional as ever. There was, alas, no food for me.

Gluten eaters just don’t understand the emotional toll the gluten-free diet takes on us, especially in high-stress, out-of-the-normal type situations. These are times when I can’t eat at home nor can I survive on granola bars.

6. It’s Good Even Though It’s Gluten-Free

My cooking and baking gets judged by gluten onlookers often. “It’s not that bad,” I’ll hear, or “I could eat this if I had to.”

Geez, thanks for your (gulp) compliment.

7. Where’s the Bread?

If you find a decent gluten-free bread, I’d really like to know about it, please.

While I do enjoy a few brands of gluten-free bread — like Schar, Canyon Bakehouse and Outside the Breadbox (Colorado only) — bread is not the same as it once was. I do find toasting gluten-free bread makes a world of difference in taste.

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