chronic illness

avoiding cross-contamination when you have celiac disease

May is Celiac Awareness Month so it is perfect time to build on to my post with 5 insider tips when you are newly diagnosed with celiac disease. There is so much to learn when you change over to a gluten-free lifestyle and are living with celiac disease and it can be totally overwhelming at times. Today’s round up of tips for living with celiac disease focus on some little things that are often overlooked that can lean to some painful gluten cross contamination.

Here are 5 tips that you may want to know when you are living with celiac disease:

1- Purchase a second toaster specifically for gluten-free use.

I am so glad I had met with that dietician or I would have never thought of this! Putting gluten-free bread in the same toaster as regular bread is just asking for trouble. Think about all the crumbs that hang out in the bottom of a toaster. You do not what your GF bread hanging out in there.

In my house, I have a separate area in the kitchen that is kind of like “gluten-free corner.” I have my own toaster and keep all of my breads, snacks, etc in that area. My toaster is also red as a visual reminder. Some other items you want to be weary of sharing with non-gluten free foods include a deep fryer, bread machines, wooden utensils and tools (such as cutting board, rolling pin, etc), and even microwaves. You don’t need to have completely separate microwaves but you need to be mindful of how you are using it with both gluten-free and gluten-containing foods.

For more advice on how to set up your kitchen, check out this post about 10 ways you may be getting glutened by your kitchen.

2- Prepare and/or serve gluten-free foods first.

Obviously others are not worried about being contaminated with gluten-free foods (except when it comes to eating a gluten-free biscuit – I think my husband almost died from trying to choke down a dry-as-the-sahara biscuit I attempted to make in my early years of GF baking) but some issues can rise when the kitchen gets busy and both gluten-free and gluten-full foods are served on the same countertop. Some people with Celiac do not have a strong reaction to cross contamination but for others, it can take the smallest amount of gluten to induce a major reaction which depending on the situation can be slightly embarrassing.

The reason I mention serving gluten-free foods first  (or allowing the person with Celiac to fix their plate first) is that naturally as a family is gathered around the table, serving spoons don’t always stay where they should or people can grab something with their hands and without noticing, contamination can become a problem. This is especially true if you have a larger family meal, a dinner party, or a pot luck type situation so instead of having to worry about it throughout the meal, allow the person with celiac to go first or just automatically dish out a certain amount of foods to be put aside away from the rest of the dinner to keep your gluten-free foods safe. No one wants to spend time worrying when they could be fully enjoying the fun and their guests.

3- Educate family and friends.

It may seem uncomfortable but it helps so much in the long run to educate family or close friends that you enjoy sharing meals with frequently. You don’t need to give them the full rundown of Celiac and its affects on the body but just letting them know what kinds of foods contain gluten – BROW – barley, rye, oats, and wheat. My parents do SO much baking at Christmas (I cannot even begin to guess how many dozens of cookies get cranked out of that kitchen every December) so my mom really wanted to learn about how she can adapt some of my Christmas faves to be gluten-free. My dad is so amazing and he always goes out of his way to research my illnesses. If we are planning a trip, he always finds the gluten-free dining options ahead of time which always makes me feel special. Obviously I am adult and always do the same thing but it makes me feel special that he pays attention the way that he does. I have amazing parents, people.

As far as friends go, the easiest thing would be to host the meal so you know everything that is going on in the kitchen or to prepare yourself a gluten-free meal and bring it with you so no one else has to worry about it. I like to do this as it is easier all the way around but I do have friends that want to know more about my diet needs so they can prepare gluten-free meals when they wish to. Even if you are the one that does all the cooking, it is just a good idea to give your family and friends the cliff notes version of celiac just to be sure.

4- Adopt the phrase “If I don’t know, it don’t go.”

As I mentioned in my post on things to know when you are newly diagnosed with celiac, reading labels is of great importance as is knowing restaurant menus. Eating at pot lucks and buffets are pretty much impossible if you have Celiac because you either don’t know fully what is gluten-free and what isn’t but the chances of cross contamination are huge. Just to be cautious and as someone who has a violent reaction to the slightest bit of gluten, if I don’t know 100% that the food is gluten-free, then I don’t eat it. Something that can be noticed on some food labels is the phrase “made on the same equipment with products containing wheat/nuts/etc.” This is really important to take notice of. The food itself may be gluten-free but it is processed on the same equipment as gluten-filled products which heightens the risk of cross-contamination. For examples, Rice Krispies themselves are gluten-free but because they are processed on the same machines as other cereals, they become contaminated. When you are reading labels, make sure to read the whole label versus just the ingredients so that you know all the facts.

5- Keep Gluten Cutter (or a similar product) on hand in case you get contaminated.

Gluten Cutter does not allow you to indulge in gluten-filled foods but it helps your body process the gluten and remove it from your system quicker. It doesn’t work the came way Lactaid does for those that are lactose intolerant.  You will still feed all the funky side effects but it will help your body process it out of your system quicker which in turn should help those side effects fade quicker as well. Supposedly they are working on a type of medication for those with Celiac that allows you to eat gluten-filled foods. We’ll have to wait and see what happens there!

Tips for living with celiac disease

In the meantime, as persons with Celiac, we just need to be diligent to avoid gluten-filled foods and situations where cross contamination could be an issue. Hopefully these posts have been helpful! Coming up with be a post with 3 of my favorite super-easy and super-yummy gluten-free recipes!

What tips for living with celiac disease would you give someone about cross-contamination and maintaining a gluten-free lifestyle?

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