I’ve been gluten free over 18 months now. I struggle asking for my meals to be prepared in a specific way. It’s uncomfortable being the one who has to ask if an item being served at a party has gluten in it. Despite having seen first hand how damaging gluten is to my body, sometimes I can’t shake the feeling that others think I’ve jumped on to a fad diet.
We bake cookies for our children that we cannot eat. Then we wash our hands and utensils in hot water several times to avoid cross-contamination. We go to work even when we’ve been glutened because sometimes it takes days for us to get over the reaction. Some of us struggle with weight gain even if we exercise regularly, because the packaged gluten free foods at the market and on restaurant menus are high-carb substitutes. There is no medication to alleviate our reactions. With seasonal allergies, I can take an antihistamine. When gluten enters my system, I experience flu-like symptoms for as long as a week.
Not long ago a sympathetic friend said, “Gosh. It must take a lot of energy to constantly monitor what’s going into your mouth.” She’s so right. I’d not thought of it that way, but her understanding moved me to tears. Some days I bury deep the reminder that I need to eat like this for the rest of my life.
So, at the risk of sounding like I’m on a soap box, I’d like to share with you (on behalf of other awkwardly gluten-free folks out there) how you can help us navigate the issue.
1) Restaurants: Please train your staff to know what a gluten sensitivity or allergy is. Hearing a waiter say, “I don’t know if there’s gluten in it, but you should be fine.” is not good enough.
2) Friends: Please don’t pity us or say things like, “Wow. I’d never be able to be gluten-free.” It’s not a choice we make. If you discovered gluten makes you ill, you’d make the necessary adjustments like we have to. We are not amazing; we’re defending our bodies every day and it’s difficult.
3) Co-workers: Please don’t bring in food as gifts. We have to say no and we feel bad. No offense – but I don’t want to spend hours in the bathroom or fight off a migraine headache because I took a bite of your amazing looking brownies.
If you or anyone you know would benefit from more details of my story, click the Gluten Free blog category. Be sure to check out some of my favorite Gluten Free recipes and articles on Pinterest, too.
Dana Byers and her family are passionate about adoption and online ministry, and they sold all they owned in 2007 to live a mobile lifestyle overseas and expand online ministry practices globally. She’s the author of “The Art of Online Ministry” and recently moved to Oklahoma to become the Community Pastor for LifeChurch.tv Church Online. All opinions shared here are expressly her own.