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Hey hey there. So last week I detailed how my life has changed since I got diagnosed with Celiac disease. I talked about my life at home, eating out, and shopping, and how those things are veritable mine-fields these days. Today I hit up how going to parties has changed, how I deal at work, while traveling, and finally getting my teeth cleaned!
Eating at Social Functions
The way I approach social functions has changed quite a bit more than I would have expected since my diagnosis. When just “Paleo” I would partake in the salami and cheese platters and veggies with ranch dressing at parties but now know better than to just assume that those things are gluten-free. I found a ranch dressing label from one of those platters a few months ago and sure enough, wheat was in the ingredients. Still beyond me why they need to have wheat in salad dressings, but alas, there is was. And as I discussed last week, many times cheaper sausages and cured meats (including cold cuts) use seasonings that include gluten, so they are definitely something to be wary of. Oh, and stay away from beer brats!
So that being said, if I know the person giving the party well I’ll ask ahead of time if they know they’ll be serving something gluten-free. Many times they don’t mind making sure that something they were going to be buying anyway is gluten-free. Or they will be able to ask the caterer to list ingredients or validate that it is indeed gluten-free or not. If I do not know the host well or it’s some big event I just know to pack a few snacks that I can eat, as well as bring my own piece of cake/cupcake if it is a birthday party. This applies more to my children who get invited to birthday parties all the time and we just tell the host that we will be bringing our own cupcake due to our child’s gluten and dairy allergies.
Typically things that are safe at parties though are the fruit platters, veggie platters without any dip, olives, and bowls of nuts. Also, don’t be shy about asking the host if you can see a label/packaging if you are really questioning something. I have never met anyone who seemed put out by this. Everyone I’ve ever asked has been more than willing to help out. And better to be overly cautious than lackadaisical or nervous about asking! Or if you are too shy about asking just don’t eat it.
When I host a social function now I am cognizant of both gluten allergies and people who couldn’t care less about removing gluten (and are frankly scared off by the term gluten-free). So with my own parties I tend to serve things that are naturally gluten-free but I just don’t make a big fuss about it. For example, if it’s a “snacky” time of day I’ll have olives, cut fruit, tortilla chips (make sure these are gluten-free) and salsa/guacamole, fried plantain chips to also dip in the salsa/guac for us Paleo types, and maybe make up some dark chocolate and nut bark for a sweet option. These things are typically appealing to both people on a gluten-free diet and those that wouldn’t touch gluten-free with a ten foot pole so they are good, easily found options.
Eating at Work
I spend most of my life at my office so of course I have to look at how this has changed. It’s kind of similar to the eating at social functions above though. I obviously cannot partake in the birthday cake celebrations or the donuts left on the counter kind of things. But ever since going Paleo this has been the way it has been. I always keep some treats like a packet of Justin’s Chocolate Hazelnut Butter or a Eating Evolved Dark Chocolate bar in my desk to have when everyone else is shoving cake in their face. Sometimes I don’t even want anything and I’ll instead go take a walk when people are eating. As for lunches, I tend to just bring leftovers from our dinner the night before so it’s not a humungous deal. However, sometimes I don’t have leftovers and need to go out, so I have compiled a list of nearby restaurants that have safe gluten-free options that I can go to in a pinch. It’s always better to have this figured out ahead of time so you aren’t stressing out about where to go while hangry. I always also have a jar of olives and a few tins of sardines in my desk to make up something quick if needbe (but I tend to eat those outside if possible since my coworkers aren’t exactly appreciative of the sardine smell!!).
Traveling is a lot like eating out but with the added complication that you need to do it over and over again and oftentimes at restaurants unknown to you. It now takes a lot more research before going on a trip. We have found that using a resource such as Tripadvisor is great for researching restaurants near to your location, especially in a foreign country. I think trying to do some research before you go to a place is really useful since you can read about others’ experiences and feel a bit more comfortable with your destination. You can always try looking it up when you are there, but if you are in a place with spotty internet service it might not always be easy. You don’t necessarily need to plan out the exact time and date you’ll be going to each restaurant, but just having a general list of several restaurants in the general area that are good possibilities for you will save you some stress.
The actual travel, depending on how long your trip is, is also a place where I find research to be helpful. For example, finding out what restaurants in the airports you will be stopping in cater to gluten-free people will save you the time of trying to figure this out when also trying to figure out where your next gate is and where a bathroom without a mile long line is located. If you know you won’t have a long layover or if your flight is long, it’s better to bring your own snacks. In fact, I say bring your own snacks no matter what because you never know what delays you might encounter. You can always eat those snacks later at your destination or after you get home if you don’t eat them during your travel. Snacks we like to bring are things like jerky, Epic bars, dried fruit, Larabars, Steve’s Paleo Goods granola, no-bake snack balls (we like this recipe by Paleo Parents), nuts, nutbutter packets (Justin’s makes individual ones), chocolate bars, trail mix, and toasted coconut flakes.
Airplane meals can be spotty. We learned this one the hard way on our last trip. We had called American Airlines and asked them to give us the gluten-free meal option and they said “ok, no problem” and then when we got on the flight the flight attendants (rudely, I might add) said “we don’t do that”. It was a bit disheartening to find out that we couldn’t get the meal that we had been promised but luckily we brought a whole bunch of snacks so we ate those instead. Not ideal by any means, but not an emergency either. The flight attendants tried to pawn off their “grilled chicken” but it was doused in sauce and likely NOT gluten-free (sauce usually has wheat flour in it as a thickener).
And as with shopping, read ALL labels of anything you might pick up while traveling. I didn’t follow my own advice and didn’t research a recent airport stop and so just had to deal with the few fast food options available near our gate. The only thing that looked safe was a salad so I got that, but it came with a salad dressing that had wheat in it.
Finally, learn any phrases for “I cannot eat gluten” and “I am allergic to wheat flour” in the native language of the place you are going. I will be touching upon this more next week regarding our recent trip to Costa Rica but I cannot stress enough how important it is to learn it in not only the native language but also by saying wheat flour because many people don’t know what gluten is and while many people speak English they might not necessarily know what “flour” is. We did print out and save to our phones these Celiac Restaurant Travel cards to show our servers which helped a lot as well – they come in lots of different languages.
Ok, so the dentist was certainly not an area I had worried about prior to my diagnosis. I can safely say the dentist was an area I wasn’t even AWARE could be a problem! But turns out that a lot of dentists use a polish that contains gluten. So I now see a dentist that is 100% gluten-free. I realize that not everyone has this option, but if you are concerned about gluten don’t feel shy about asking the hygienist or the doctor to look at the label to confirm there is no gluten in whatever they are about to put in your mouth. It might be that the product they are using is fine, but I know I’d much rather know that rather than get sick.
When I Do Get “Glutened”
Now when I get glutened I certainly feel the effects within about an hour. Amazing to me since I spent my whole life eating it and hardly noticed any issues, but now if I even get the “griddle” gluten I spoke of earlier it’s several hours of intense intestinal pain followed by days of nausea and brain fog (and then a few months of Hashimoto’s flares too, yay). My plan of attack usually is this now: when eating out I typically take several gluten-digesting enzymes. The ones I take are called GlutenFlam by Apex Energetics. If I start feeling the pain of getting glutened I take several more and then I take a certain essential oil blend that puts the fire out enough for me to be comfortable. Then over the next few days I remove all inflammatory foods (typically I just go back on the Autoimmune Paleo Protocol diet for a few weeks), continue to take that essential oil blend, get a lot more sleep and relaxation than usual, take it easy on any exercise, and avoid any sort of situations that might expose me to gluten. It’s certainly not fun to get glutened but I do feel better about going out, traveling, etc now that I have a solid plan of attack of what to do WHEN it happens. It’s not really a matter of IF. It most likely will happen. But knowing what to do when it does makes me have a lot more confidence and not go hide under a rock somewhere. I don’t want this disease to get the better of me, that’s for sure!