Getting Glutened Sucks! Living the gluten free lifestyle is not easy, especially when you absolutely have to eat strictly gluten free, I do my best to stay safe. I read every label, call companies, spread the word through social media, educate anyone that will listen, call ahead to restaurants, ask questions and more questions when eating anywhere outside my house. I patiently take the time to explain to servers, managers and chefs how serious celiac disease is, how even the smallest crumb of cross contamination will send my world spiraling out of control and throwing up on their table. After all that is said and done I still roll the dice, hoping that this time I will walk out happily nourished and not bloatingly pregnant.
Some choose to not go out to eat at all and to never take chances; I am not one of those people. When every waking moment I have to worry about my physical health, I refuse to put my mental health in detriment as well. That is, I will not give up spontaneously meeting friends out for drinks, enjoying social occasions or having a nice meal on a date; I always carry snacks as a ‘just in case’. Sometimes though, no matter how many questions I ask or how many times I explain my situation, the chance of being glutened is a truth I live with daily.
Gluten Free Options
There has been an upswing of restaurants around the country offering gluten free options, some are safe and some are not. I can usually tell by how the waiter answers my questions. For example, does the ‘deer in headlights look’ glaze across their eyes, do they seem annoyed or put out by the mere mention of ‘gluten free’ or are they at least somewhat educated and more than happy to check ingredients and do what they can to try to ensure an enjoyable meal? All I ask for is honesty. Again, sometimes that is not enough.
Recently I went out to drinks with a friend at a local hotspot in Sherman Oaks called, On the Thirty. I hadn’t planned to eat, but the fresh beet salad on their menu sounded so delicious I decided to try it. I explained to the waitress about being medically gluten free and how serious cross contamination is for me and that it only takes a few crumbs of gluten to trigger a reaction. She explained that it was not a problem at all to accommodate safely. The beet salad arrived and normally I would wait until the waitress came back to the table so I could verify the safety of the food before I started eating, this time I did not. I soon would regret this decision.
Along the edges of the plate were these tantalizing candied walnuts that I absolutely adore and could not help myself. Without thinking clearly I picked one up and popped it into my mouth. Right then I looked up and saw the waitress literally running to our table, I knew as I swallowed I had made a big mistake. Clearly concerned she said, “I tried to stop the salad before it came out, please tell me you didn’t eat the nuts.” My friend looked over at her and said, yes, she ate the nuts. The waitress looked horrified, as she was not sure what would happen next and asked what she could do. I shook my head and said, ‘it’s too late now, but I will have a shot of tequila please.’
Within minutes I went from happily chatting away nonstop to barely being able to put two words together. I excused myself, as a mild case of vertigo started to set in, and slowly walked to the bathroom. I sat there in the stall for what seemed like an eternity and fought hard against my desire to crawl into the corner and fall fast asleep right there on the floor. Finally I gathered myself up and walked slowly back, holding the walls and every chair I passed to make it back to the table standing upright.
As we left the restaurant to return to my place, my growing stomach gave me a glimpse into the rest of my evening. I could barely keep my eyes open, slurring every word like I was seriously intoxicated. A migraine had set in by the time we reached my apartment and once inside I immediately found solace on the cold hard floor, alleviating some of the nausea while he rubbed my back. Soon after that I had passed out. Did I mention this was a first date? Not embarrassing at all. My life is a reality show.
When I woke in the morning my body felt like I had been run over by a truck. Unfortunately I had to go to work and spent the first 5 hours running back and forth to the bathroom every ten minutes, much to the chagrin of my fellow employees. I suppose I am lucky that I had passed out before the worst part happened when my date was still there.
That evening, my body exhausted, there was absolutely no sleep in my future. I tossed and turned all night long with restless leg syndrome burning through my lower limbs, positioning my pillows in every way possible until I finally just gave up and got out of bed. As the sun started to rise I ran a bath to hopefully relieve my legs a bit, when I noticed the red rash running along the length of my back and smaller red spots between my breasts… pleasant! The rest of the day I stayed planted on my couch watching bad tv, eating red grapes and drinking peppermint tea.
It Doesn’t Pay to Assume
All of this from just one flour coated walnut, pretty unbelievable isn’t it?! It had been a long time since I was full on glutened by actually eating gluten and not just minor mishaps with cross contamination, it was painfully not pretty. I blame it partly on the restaurant, but I place most of the blame on myself for not following my own rules and for being impatient. After being gluten free for almost 5 years now it seems I have grown a little lax, this little mishap reminded me of how truly painful ignoring diligence is; a lesson I will not soon forget.
So remember, ALWAYS READ LABELS and ALWAYS ASK QUESTIONS and then ask some more after the food arrives. Always use your best judgment and learn from my experience. It has now been 3 full days since I ate the floured walnut and I am still not at a 100%, but at least my bathroom excursions have lessened, my migraine has subsided and hopefully I will sleep comfortably through the night tonight.