How easy is it to get glutened?

ice cream

Ever since the date of my diagnosis, I have not intentionally eaten even a crumb of gluten. Despite my paranoical avoidance of anything gluten, and turning my home into a gluten free fortress, I have been ill from gluten ingestion several times over the past 7 years.

The simple truth is that it is VERY EASY to accidentally ingest gluten, or get glutened.

We all hear about how this or that restaurant can cater to a gluten free diet, making claims about 100% gluten free food and the like.

But the fact is that if the restaurant does not serve only gluten free foods, there is always a risk. No matter how diligent the chef might be by using special pans and clean utensils, if the same restaurant serves gluten filled pizzas and breads, make their own sauces and soups, and use marinades and ready made sauces, gluten will be in the atmosphere. Some examples of possible sources of gluten contamination in this scenario include gluten on the chef’s clothing, and on waiters hands when handling gluten containing plates and gluten free dishes at the same time.

And by stating the above, I am referring to those restaurants that do take measures to avoid cross contamination. Unfortunately, we all know that there are some instances where, we serve gluten free means: we serve gluten free bread and pasta but have no clue about hidden ingredients and cross contamination issues.

I recently came across a menu for an Asian restaurant that claim to serve gluten free dishes. Right next to that claim it stated that dishes may contain traces of nuts.  So by this, they are saying that their food contains absolutely no traces of gluten at all! A little far fetched in my opinion, considering the amounts of sauces used in Asian restaurants.

A possibility? Yes. Likely to be completely gluten free? No way.

I am not trying to put you off eating out, but to minimise risk, we should think a little about what we are about to order, and where we dine out. A restaurant that serves grills, would probably have less risk factors than a pizzeria or bakery for example.  Although this is not always the rule, and the said pizzeria might be more diligent with minimising cross contamination than another restaurant that does not handle flours.

But it is not only when dining out that the danger lies. Hidden ingredients in foods at home can easily be overlooked and cross contamination can happen when living with gluten eating family members.

We can all tolerate different tiny amounts of gluten, and pre packaged foods can only be labelled as gluten free if they contain less than 20 parts per million of gluten. But even if you do not feel symptoms with gluten ingestion, damage is still being done to the villi in the small intestine. So it is imperative to remember how easy it is to get glutened, and to minimise risks. This can be done by dining out in restaurants that actually know what a gluten free diet entails, and by being extra careful at home.

Despite this, sometimes we just do get glutened, and that is why sometimes having Coeliac disease is hard.


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