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When Mistakes Happen, Focus on Comfort (How Celiacs can More Quickly Recover from Gluten Exposure)

Celiac.com 09/25/2008 - Even after identifying yourself as having a wheat or gluten allergy and asking for a specially prepared meal, it is a common mistake to have a server deliver soup with crackers, or the entree with a side of Texas toast.   I get frustrated just thinking about the number of times my salad has arrived with croutons.  However, getting upset, or pointedly reminding the server can ruin the ambiance of the meal, as well as leave a bad impression with your dinner companions. It is helpful to remember that you are in the very small minority of their customers, and simply consider it an honest mistake.  Do not remove the croutons, crackers, cheese, etc. and eat your contaminated food—SEND IT BACK TO THE KITCHEN—politely, please.  State that you cannot eat what they have brought you, and repeat that you are allergic to the offending food.  Use the opportunity to gently remind your server and educate them about gluten.  Hopefully the next time they will be more conscientious.

If you are wheat or gluten intolerant, and have the genetic component that leads to celiac disease, there is no going back to gluten.  As your body heals, you may think that you will be able to cheat once in a while, and that your sensitivity to gluten will decrease once you are not getting "too much".  In fact, the opposite seems to be true.  Once the body begins to get rid of its toxic load, heal damaged tissues, and regain health, it becomes more sensitive to gluten.  I see this over and over again in the clients I counsel, and in my cooking class students.  You will know right away if you cheat, or if you are accidentally "glutened".  Your body, fortunately or unfortunately, will tell you.  It is important to learn techniques to sooth your symptoms as much as possible until recovery takes place.

Symptoms of gluten exposure in a gluten-intolerant person can vary widely, but some commonly reported ones are abdominal discomfort, bloating, pain, swelling (sometimes extreme) and cramping, followed by diarrhea, or loose stools.  For those with Dermatitis Herpetiformis (DH), even very minor exposure can provoke itching and a return of a healed or nearly healed rash.  Others report headaches, or experience a sudden decrease in alertness and clarity of thought.

Short-term treatment strategies for gluten exposure include taking an over-the-counter anti-histamine (check with your pharmacist for gluten ingredients), drinking nettle leaf tea (a natural anti-histamine), and using a warm castor oil pack over your upper or lower abdomen, wherever the pain and cramping are centered.

Longer-term strategies include rebuilding your intestinal health through following an anti-inflammatory diet, taking supplements like L-Glutamine, coconut oil, fat-soluble vitamins A, E, D, and K, Calcium, Magnesium, B-Vitamins, Essential Fatty Acids (EFA's), and probiotics.  Dr. Thomas O'Bryan, a nationally recognized speaker on celiac disease and gluten sensitivity, also recommends Carnitine, an amino acid, in the treatment of celiac/gluten intolerance.  L-Carnitine helps in the absorption and transport of essential fatty acids into cells, and also helps to protect nerve membranes from free-radical damage.

You may have good results with the tummy rescue smoothie recipe below, which I developed in response to a "gluten emergency" of my own.  The healing properties of each ingredient are also listed.  Puree in blender until smooth, and slightly thickened.  It is most soothing when consumed while still warm from the hot tea

Tummy Rescue Smoothie:

  • 1 cup hot freshly brewed nettle leaf tea (anti-histamine, anti-spasmodic)
  • ¼ cup Santa-Cruz pear juice (flavoring/sweetener - pears are the least allergenic of fruits)
  • ¼ - ½ teaspoon whole fennel seed (reduces gas & bloating)
  • 2 Tablespoons slippery elm powder (healing & soothing to mucous membranes and the gut)
  • 1 Tablespoon flax seed oil (soothing, anti-inflammatory)
  • ¼ - ½ cup rice milk (hypoallergenic, use to thin to desired consistency)

This smoothie is best consumed in small sips over an hour or so.  Magnesium also helps with pain and relaxes muscle spasms, so taking a little extra magnesium may be of benefit. For severe symptoms, drink the smoothie while reclining in bed, with a warm castor oil pack over the abdomen, covered by a heating pad set on low.  Do not leave the pack in place for more than an hour.

There is also an enzyme coming on the market that may help reduce some symptoms of gluten exposure, although this product is in no way meant to replace the gluten-free diet.  Use it only for emergencies.

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44 Responses:

 
CoconutOilGuy
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said this on
25 Sep 2008 10:01:41 PM PST
Hello Wendy, yes, long term health-boosting strategies should be at the forefront. Indeed, coconut oil is an anti-inflammatory dietary fat and is renowned for enhancing the immune system. 80% of our immune system is located in the intestinal tract.

 
Jen
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said this on
26 Sep 2008 5:46:40 PM PST
Lots of Celiacs I know (including me) are violently ill starting about an hour after consuming even small amounts gluten. Sorry if it is TMI, but I have projectile vomiting for 3-4 hours accompanied by severe cramping in my stomach (not intestines) .... and then feel like I have the worst hangover the next day.

Frankly diarrhea, or loose stools would be a welcome change...easily fixed with Imodium.

 
Betsy
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said this on
07 Dec 2009 6:36:06 AM PST
If only it were that simple. I find that when I have a reaction to food, Imodium doesn't work. I have been diagnosed with ulcerative colitis in the past, and Imodium worked for my symptoms when they were related to that. I get roughly the same symptoms for both UC and food reactions. Just for one I can take a pill and the other I can't.

 
gina
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said this on
01 Oct 2008 3:03:57 AM PST
Thank you for the Tummy Rescue Smoothie! I've often wondered if there is a little help/relief when accidental gluten exposure occurs. Thank you! Thank you!

 
Julia
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said this on
01 Oct 2008 5:18:56 AM PST
I use Aloe drink (2-4 ounces) plus Digestive Enzymes and it has saved my life. I highly recommend keeping these on hand.

 
Sara
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said this on
01 Oct 2008 8:21:48 AM PST
Thanks for the smoothie idea, it definitely sounds like something worth trying!

And just a note to Jen: It's a bit presumptuous of you to assume that those of us who suffer from severe intestinal pain and D as a result of being glutened somehow have it easier. It is literally the WORST pain I have ever felt, and it is most definitely not 'easily fixed with Imodium.' Just wanted to clear that up.

 
atieh ghavamiadel
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said this on
01 Oct 2008 8:43:58 AM PST
Thanks for your sharing.

 
Lexi Coates
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said this on
01 Oct 2008 1:20:55 PM PST
Excellent suggestions.

 
guadalupe
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said this on
02 Oct 2008 1:11:46 AM PST
Hello, I sympathize with you gluten symptom sufferers but do be thankful (though it may be difficult for you) that you do get a reaction to gluten to alert you. My daughter has no external symptoms though her biopsy showed her gut to be in a very bad state... there is literally no way of knowing when a mistake has been made and therefore no way of avoiding food with hidden gluten ...

 
KC

said this on
24 Jul 2015 9:04:22 AM PST
Hi Guadelupe. I would suggest the help within this website for your daughter, also its probably best for her to only eat at home. For school, she should perhaps take her lunch. Being really creative with her foods and lunches will help her adjust and probably make her friends envious, (for a child someone being envious is a good thing), especially if the child has an illness. I have no children with this diagnosis but if I did every precaution would be taken at least until she's an adult to take care of herself. As you probably know, many restaurants offer gluten free meals (with possible cross contamination), but I wouldn't trust them, especially for your child. My fav food is ethnic, especially all types of Asian and I've learned how to prepare authentic Asian dishes myself. I like Italian, and with gluten free pastas I prepare my own.

 
Jeff
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said this on
02 Oct 2008 1:38:43 AM PST
The problem is not as simple as obvious croutons in a salad. The problem is when I discover that I ate hidden gluten after the server, manager, or cook has assured me multiple times that my food is gluten-free. I do not get tummy aches that can be cured with a tummy remedy. I get some of the severe symptoms mentioned in the article. My gut is severely damaged, possibly permanently, and the symptoms last for days if not longer. Restaurant owners and managers have to take responsibility for their actions, and this article does not help in that regard.

 
Amy
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said this on
02 Oct 2008 5:23:37 AM PST
I have found that drinking two or three tall glasses of water right after being glutened helps some too! Then my old friend Mylanta. I'll try that brewed nettle leaf tea should there be a next time (let's hope not!).

 
Michelle
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said this on
02 Oct 2008 5:50:25 AM PST
Hi Wendy! I'm glad to see this here... I've also found that the nettle works well for bladder disturbances, often related to gluten exposure.

 
Mary Lou Archambault
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said this on
02 Oct 2008 9:02:17 AM PST
I have to say that intestinal pain and diarrhea are not to me considered easier. If this happens to me at a restaurant possibly caused by cross-contamination, the reaction is usually immediate and hopefully there is a restroom handy and empty. When I go for walks even that sometimes brings it on so I therefore have become dependent on Imodium. To me this is not a good thing.

 
Marie
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said this on
02 Oct 2008 1:29:12 PM PST
Thank you for your words of wisdom, I will immediately run to my local health food store & stock up on smoothie ingredients. I'm less than a year into this diet and still struggling 2-3 time a month.

 
Pamme Jons
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said this on
02 Oct 2008 2:01:08 PM PST
Thanks for the info about how you actually seem hypersensitive when you start to heal...that has been the most shocking thing to me....I was functioning for so long as an undiagnosed celiac, and now 2 years vehemently Gluten-Free, I can not believe how debilitated I am when I get glutened? It flattens me for two days!

 
Jennifer
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said this on
06 Oct 2008 4:12:24 AM PST
Everyone I know that is gluten intolerant has different reactions. Mine is intestinal, but also mental. That is the hard reaction to heal.
Thanks for the info.

 
LaDonna
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said this on
07 Oct 2008 7:39:13 AM PST
Thank you for the info about the smoothie. I have my list made to get the products to make it. Only thing I will have to check with the Health Food Store if nettle leaf tea will mix with my sinniment med. I take. I cannot take anti-histamine tablets. So I will see. I had a couple of comments to say. One is when my salad arrives with croutons I always feel like if I ask them to take it back...They just go back and take them off in the kitchen. Also you commented on soup you order?? I have always stayed away from soup because it always seems to have gluten in it.

 
Steph
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said this on
08 Oct 2008 1:15:45 AM PST
Thanks for writing something about how to deal with the mistakes. This is where I have a hard time coping, the fatigue plus physical symptoms really drag me down and it is so hard to get back up, usually several days. I am glad to hear others have this too, it makes it less scary. I sometimes get scared something else is happening... nice to be able to dampen the symptoms. Thanks for the help!

 
Gerald S Jones
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said this on
10 Oct 2008 1:22:00 PM PST
Just a short note to Jen. Watch what you wish for. My last gluten exposure gave me diarrhea to the point that I became severely dehydrated, my kidneys shut down and I was hospitalized for 15 days. Imodium didn't faze it.

 
Allison
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said this on
14 Oct 2008 7:48:06 PM PST
Thanks for the help, Wendy. In addition to gastro symptoms, I also get a migraine for days. Any ideas?

 
C J Russell
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said this on
07 Jul 2015 9:15:58 AM PST
A migraine or severe headache is my main symptom, too, Allison. It generally starts about 1.5-2 hours after accidentally eating gluten. Frankly, I would rather have the gastro symptoms, but perhaps mine are not as bad as others on this blog.

For me, Ibuprofen does not help. I have to take real aspirin to get any relief at all, and then it just relieves the worst of it for a few hours. At least I can function when taking aspirin, which would be mighty difficult without it. If I keep my blinds shut the eye pain is diminished. The only real blessing is that the migraines don't last the 3-5 days that they used to before I found out that they were caused by gluten.

 
Steven Leitner
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said this on
17 Oct 2008 8:06:01 AM PST
Thanks for the article and the interesting comments. I too went on the Gluten Free diet after biopsy etc. I too found that I have become much more sensitive to gluten after being on the diet. I did get rid of my all-body rash, which had been diagnosed for 13 years as Cutaneous T-Cell Lymphoma and improperly treated for such at Yale New Haven Hospital and Columbia Presbyterian Hospital, Cornell in NYC. What a mess. Yes, whenever I eat out I usually get glutened. Do not ever trust restaurants or waiters even when the restaurant has a reputation for having a Gluten Free menu. I now usually bring a small container of fat free yogurt and a banana which I hide while others order food. I eat what I bring and although I miss the goodies at the table I feel well after the meal. That is becoming the most important thing for me. I am old and I realize that Celiac damages our general immune system so we must be vigilant to protect ourselves. Yes, we 'think' we recover from the cramps, diarrhea, malaise in a few days, but the immune system damage, and small intestine damage lasts and lasts. Be vigilant and survive.

 
Leti
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said this on
06 Jun 2011 11:00:50 AM PST
Would like to discuss further your CTCL mis-diagnosis.

 
Mel
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said this on
21 Oct 2008 2:32:04 PM PST
Hi Wendy - Thank you so much for sharing this information. I'm gluten intolerant but not Celiac and have pretty bad symptoms. I thought I could be glutened on occasion and be alright. Not so much...and now I understand why. It's been about 18 months since my discovery and I'm and still getting adjusted. I've learned so much about what I can do to heal through your article. My appreciation and gratitude.

 
Stijn
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said this on
05 Nov 2008 9:23:34 PM PST
This is the kind of good advice that makes my day! You can't believe how happy I am finding this website with solid information. It's true, it gets worse gluten exposure after a while being on the diet. The main symptom I suffer is 'brain fog' that goes on for about 2 days after the exposure and it's quite severe, it's impossible to read a book or even calculate little things like checking the bill of the restaurant I am never going back to... Thanks again from across the ocean, Flanders (Belgium)

 
Vicki Smith
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said this on
07 Nov 2008 11:53:22 AM PST
My daughter was diagnosed with gluten allergy. This site gives good info. Thanks

 
P. T. B.
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said this on
08 Nov 2008 5:21:10 PM PST
Pears? Following along in the footsteps of the 11, or is it now 12, allele types associated with Celiac (or gluten intolerance), there's another one that treats a chemical found in pear, apple and peach skins, as well as in birch bark and seeds, just as though it were a terrible poison.

That annoying apple peel that lodged in your gum didn't just 'irritate it'. That welt that rose up in the roof of your mouth and your gums is an auto immune reaction to the chemical in the peel.

When that stuff gets to your intestines it continues cause welts.

It is believed this genetic trait served to protect folks against eating small birch trees (6 inches high or less) in the Arctic. They contain high levels of cyanide and a diet high in birch trees can kill humans.

If the peels are cooked, apples and pears and peaches are OK since heat destroys the damaging chemical.

 
rb93
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said this on
23 Jul 2009 3:43:11 AM PST
You're talking about salicylates. Those are supposed to be avoided on the Fiengold Diet, too. It's been 5 days and my mental state has greatly improved, I'm nearly 'normal'. It's amazing, the more I read, the more things I find in common with advice for celiacs, the Fiengold Diet, and the blood type diet (i'm an O), and I'm avoiding those right now, too. All of this research is going to converge soon, I think. Brighter days ahead for all of us dealing with our conditions.

 
Joseph
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said this on
02 Dec 2008 3:39:16 PM PST
Thank you for your information on all of the ups and downs of this disease. I hope these helpful hints can provide some type of comfort to my recently diagnosed infant. If there are more discoveries toward this can you please email me with some type of information. Thank you very much for everything.

 
Nicole
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said this on
05 Dec 2008 5:45:47 PM PST
Let's just say my friend has Celiac disease. She is successful in her career and home life. She is in no way a pot head. One night she smoked a little after being 'glutened'. She was amazed how quickly her gastro-intestinal symptoms went away.

 
JoLou
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said this on
08 Dec 2008 1:36:03 PM PST
I have recently been been told I am Celiac based on physical markers & blood test. I am gathering my alternative foods but have not started diet yet. This exchange makes me think I might not want to. My symptoms now are very subtle.

 
Tracy
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said this on
27 Jan 2009 5:14:17 AM PST
Thank you so much for all the great advice in this article. I recently discovered that I have Celiac after being sick since I was very young and I am now 38. I have not had the biopsy or blood test. The doctor suggested I do an elimination diet mentioning wheat and gluten specifically. We started with wheat but realized it was gluten. I have been gluten free (at least I have been trying) for almost two months now. I have already noticed a greater sensitivity when I have been 'glutened.'

This website has been wonderfully amazing! I have learned so much and finally feel as though I am among those who truly 'get it.'

Tracy

 
Louise
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said this on
30 Jan 2009 4:03:46 AM PST
Goldenseal Root - trust me it works amazingly well. I thought it would be good for my mother who is celiac. If she accidentally has wheat or wheat syrup, wheat glucose (as is in things like mousses, sweets and on dried fruits), concentrated grain sugars (which I think are the reason so many people are celiac - we just aren't meant to eat that much concentrated grain sugar. A few drops of the glycerin based tincture and she will come out of a faint, loose the shakes and think clearly again. Its truly magic and you can carry it in a handbag! I thought it would be good because it is a bitter and treats stomach problems, and cleans the blood.

 
Mom of Rylee
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said this on
27 Feb 2009 1:58:11 PM PST
my 3 year old daughter was diagnosed with celiac two years ago. It has been a battle. Recently while in the daycare at church, she was given pretzels for a snack by mistake. She was projectile vomiting for hours. Is there something I can give her after she ingests gluten by mistake? It's only going to get harder to make everyone aware when she's in school. Is there a website I can go to and get her a medical bracelet?

 
Wendy
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said this on
16 Apr 2014 9:56:36 PM PST
It will get better when she gets older and can advocate for herself. My son and I are both celiac. He knows not to eat ANYTHING at school that I have not packed for him. He won't even eat hard candy or gum. He brings everything home and then we throw it away together. I make sure to pack plenty of safe snacks, Lara bars are great, as well as plantain chips from Trader Joe's. I send a bag of snacks to school that his teacher keeps in the cabinet just for him. If someone has a birthday, she gives him one of his special cookies so he doesn't feel left out from the cupcake fest. It's hard, but it will get better.

 
Sharon
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said this on
13 Jun 2009 11:28:38 PM PST
Thank you for such a wonderful article. I have searches the web for information like this. I appreciate the research and the time you took to put out the detail. I accidentally got gluten 2 days ago. I react with flew like symptoms, achy joints and tiredness for 2-3 days. This time I took Claritin and antihistamine and my reaction was not as bad as some past reactions. Your article helped. I agree with the response above. I think it is best to bring your own food with you and explain your allergy to the server. It is to risky to take the chance. I tried by ordering beans and tortilla's at a Mexican restaurant. I wanted to enjoy a special event and have just one night not worrying about food. So I ordered simple. I was two bites into the tortilla when I discovered it was flour. I cried!

 
KC
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said this on
24 Jul 2015 9:41:52 AM PST
Hi Sharon, I wonder even taking an antihistamine to halt allergy symptoms of celiac or gluten intolerance, I don't think that halts any possible irritation or damage to any organs or does it?

 
Suzabella67
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said this on
15 Mar 2011 8:09:43 AM PST
Very helpful! Thank you!

 
Cheri
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said this on
05 Jun 2013 9:57:48 PM PST
With an accidental ingestion, would it help to fast for several days on juice, probiotic, and water only (plus the enzymes you recommend)? Problems seem to escalate each time I eat anything after being "glutenized" and this lasts for 5 or 6 days. Advice would be appreciated!! Thanks.

 
anna

said this on
28 Jun 2013 5:24:36 AM PST
I'm in GIG from the last 14 years and one bite of cake or bread can swell my tummy around 5 inches for 20-25 days... Flax seed is helpful in it, either in roasted form or boiled form if accidentally you are glutened. Turmurric powder is also helpful in soothing tummies.

 
coloradosue
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said this on
07 Jul 2015 2:30:47 AM PST
Last week, I too, suffered a severe reaction to gluten by eating chips with wheat and barley malt in them. I thought the label said they were GF. This was the 6th time since being diagnosed in 2004, that I had a severe reaction to gluten. Each exposure is worse than the last. I was rushed by my husband to the ER. Within 20 minutes my symptoms are sudden nausea leading to projectile vomiting and explosive diaherra. Add in the inability to move or communicate to the medical staff exactly what is going on. I usually wind up on IV fluids and other medications to slow the violent reaction down. Finish that off with weeks of sudden weakness, panic attacks, migraines, lack of sleep and brain fog, and you have what I go through. I can't go out due to sudden panic attacks. I am on all kinds of medications but no other support for the emotional turmoil that continues for quite some time. But what really gets me angry is the non-support from the ER staff who whisper in the background while I am vomiting my guts out that this is either a drug overdose or something else similar. All I can say to them is thank your lucky stars you don't have to go through what I have. And read up on what Celiac Disease is. Despite all of the medical articles that have verified that this is a real DISEASE, there are still many in the "medical profession" who really don't or won't understand what we go through. Should this happen to me again (and Lord I hope not) I will vomit on them.
I will try the recipes listed and hopefully get my life back together again. And good luck to all of us who have few choices.

 
KC
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said this on
24 Jul 2015 9:31:53 AM PST
Hi everyone. Regarding eating out and food choices: Whenever anyone has a diagnosis of an illness or disease, changes even drastic changes have to take place. Even with Celiac and gluten intolerance. After a year of knowing I am gluten intolerant and possibly have been for a long time, I finally came to the conclusion that I cant eat how I used to eat (restaurants, a glutinous dessert periodically). Because, even though I order from the "glutenfree menu" I cant count on my food not being contaminated. I told myself if I want to have a strong, happy productive life I must not eat gluten...ever. Its a hard pill to swallow, but I have no choice but to swallow it and live without putting myself in an early grave. I'm 53, I'm strong and vibrant, I have no major health problems except dealing with gluten intolerance. Our lives aren't over, and we should refuse to allow bad choices to end our lives early. We can do it, we can change! Gods health and healing, in Jesus name!

 
Susan
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said this on
12 Sep 2016 2:20:21 PM PST
This is good advice EXCEPT for one thing. When they deliver GF food prepared improperly, ask to have the entire plate remade while you hold the one in error at your table. Explain that you do this to assist to prevent any mistakes in someone believing it should be delivered back to me for some mistaken reason. Do not touch the plate. Allow no one at the table to touch the plate. When the properly prepared plate is delivered, return the wrong one with grateful thanks. There is no need to make a fuss just hold the wrong one until the right one is delivered while explaining that your only goal is to help.

This helps prevent the server from mistakenly removing the croutons and returning a dangerous plate to your table. If necessary, explain that another restaurant with a less experienced service staff accidentally did this and you help out in this way now.




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