Celiac disease images of gluten

Four possible sources of gluten: wheat flour, spelt, barley, and rye.


Back in 2009, my boyfriend received a diagnosis of celiac disease. Receiving the diagnosis was both a relief—to finally know what was wrong—and also a curse—no gluten, really? The next few months, we spent probably triple the amount of time grocery shopping. We muttered curses every time we found another product (“These chips have gluten in them! Potato chips! Why!”) that somehow managed to add enriched wheat flour, modified food starch, malt or some other form of gluten into their ingredients.

In the years since his diagnosis, we’ve gotten much more creative and a lot smarter. We’ve also discovered many awesome recipes online. One of my favorite tricks to pull on my friends is to let them eat something like a gluten-free cookie or brownie and then see their surprise when I reveal that it’s gluten-free! (“I couldn’t tell!”—That’s the idea!) But it can be frustrating, too. We have separate toasters, separate racks in the oven, separate peanut butter jars and yes, we have to be those people at the restaurant every time we want to go out to eat. (“Is the chicken fried or grilled? Do the French fries share the same fryolator with breaded products?”)

A romantic dinner can quickly turn sour when a server rushes over to say she was wrong, those tortilla chips aren’t gluten-free, after my boyfriend has already devoured ten. People tend to underestimate how serious the side effects of consuming gluten can be for someone with celiac disease (as well as those with other forms of gluten intolerance and those with medical symptoms alleviated by avoiding gluten).

As evidenced by the memes on Facebook I encounter making fun of those who ask if a product is gluten-free, it’s clear that there are plenty of people who just don’t realize that going gluten-free can be the result of a medical issue. But being gluten-free or living with someone gluten-free isn’t all gloom and doom.

So how has the gluten-free landscape changed? Check back soon for Part 2!