What happens once you are diagnosed with a wheat of gluten allergy or intolerance? Although it gets easier as awareness and need grows for gluten and wheat-free food, there are many concerns that one needs to address whilst adapting to a new lifestyle. Especially if you are living in an environment where other members of the household will continue to eat wheat and gluten containing products. There are a few steps that you can take in order to protect yourself from having a reaction through cross contamination.
1. You’ll need a separate toaster that has not been used with wheat and gluten containing breads. Setting up your own station for preparing gluten free bread products is a must. Clearly label your toaster GLUTEN FREE ONLY so that guests know not to use it for normal bread. Also make sure that normal bread products are being kept away from your food preparation area and that family members/ house mates know to clean up their crumbs!
2. Do no use/share condiments/butter Unless it’s a squeezable bottle or something that a knife can not be inserted into. Condiments and butter are one of the biggest causes of cross contamination at home and in restaurants as people do not realise that these items are full of gluten and wheat. You’ve done it hundreds of times….you’re making a sandwich and putting mustard on it….you scoop some out on your knife and it’s not quite enough so you dip the knife back in again for a little more. Now the mustard is unusable for someone who is avoiding wheat/gluten.
3. Chopping Boards Collanders and pots are items that you should not share with people in the household who are using them for wheat/gluten containing products like bread and pasta. As a whole it’s worth it to invest in a few kitchen items only used for what you prepare for yourself.
4. Learn to cook this may be a fairly obvious one. But I do realise that in some ways, even though there was virtually no awareness about food allergies or easily recognised safe products at the time when I was diagnosed…I was already a cook/chef at the time so learning to modify ingredients in my diet was a challenge I embraced. I did go through some trial and error, but the cooking bit was always easy for me. If you don’t like to spend loads of time in the kitchen…all you need to do is start out with a few simple recipes that you can do in 5 minutes or less. Omelettes, quesadillas, GF pasta and simple salads are a good start. There are loads of pre-packaged gluten-free options out there now…but they are pricey and often filled with ingredients that are often less than healthy. Learning to cook will save you loads of money and keep you healthier.
5. Educate others Don’t expect other people to know how to keep you from having a reaction. You need to educate other family members and friends on how to keep you safe. They love you…they want to help. Not long ago, it seemed that people viewed food allergies and mental illness in the same way. So many times I’ve been told..”It’s all in your head!” Things have changed. Allergy UK states that around 45% of people in the UK suffer from some sort of food allergy/intolerance. Don’t be afraid to ask people for what you need. You will probably encounter some resistance along the way, but being clear about what you can eat and how it’s prepared is a lot easier than spending the night doubled over or a trip to the hospital. Get used to speaking up…you’ll need to do it a lot.
Obviously there is a lot more to say on this subject, especially about the foods you now can/can’t eat…but that is for another time and I find there’s a lot of good info already out there on the web. I will be posting soon on that subject…but if you need help for now here are some great places to start:
all photos used in this blog are sourced from flickr and licensed through Creative Commons. To find out more info about the photographer and enjoy more of their photos, please click on the picture itself and you will be taken to their flickr page! Enjoy!