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What About Just a Little Gluten?

Image: CC--rob_rob2001 08/25/2016 - You just got diagnosed Celiac and are wondering how serious this really is. What if there is just a little gluten in your food? What if you use the same toaster for your gluten-free bread as your wife's/husband's regular bread? What if those french fries are gluten-free but they fry them in the same fryer as those nice gluten coated onion rings?

Well, my answer is always that no amount of gluten is "safe". Items that are certified gluten-free must be tested and must pass, having less than 20 parts per million (ppm) of gluten. That means that less than .002% parts of that item contain gluten. That is quite a small amount but not necessarily small enough to not have a reaction to it. Some products even test as low as 10 ppm or 5ppm.  Anything lower than 3ppm is undetectable by any test out there right now. Some products state they are less than 20ppm but you really don't know if that is 19ppm or 5ppm so I always assume the worst just in case.

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So let's assume these french fries are nice and crispy and they share that fryer with those delicious onion rings. The answer is, stay away. You most definitely will end up consuming gluten. You may not have a reaction that you notice from these french fries, as some people are more sensitive or less sensitive, but that does not mean they are not causing an autoimmune reaction and causing damage internally.

My advice: get your own dedicated gluten-free toaster; ask and ask again if sauces contain gluten; ask if the fryer shares space with gluten containing items and even let your server know you have celiac disease and to let the chef know. Your server may not know enough about gluten and celiac disease, but chefs almost always do and will understand the severity of it. I have had much better luck eating out when I have my server actually let the chef know I am celiac. There have been many occasions where my server said something was gluten-free without asking the chef and in the end I ended up sick in bed because of it. welcomes your comments below (registration is NOT required).

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9 Responses:

Phillip M.M.
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said this on
25 Aug 2016 10:26:10 PM PST
I guess I am still hurting myself by eating the gluten filled French fries. I live in a part of the country of USA that has no specialist that I can find so far for testing. I've been suffering for years with digestive issues and other health concerns that identify with the other followers of this informative site. Thank you all for sharing, I need to work harder at understanding this!

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said this on
30 Aug 2016 6:31:33 AM PST
There are "mailed" testing kits. Get one soon.

Chris ruh
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said this on
28 Aug 2016 1:11:40 PM PST
You can get tested by a natirepath through muscle reflexology. It´s inexpensive and doesn´t hurt.

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said this on
29 Aug 2016 1:46:20 PM PST
Thank you Tina Turbin. For those of us that remember how horribly ill felt, why would we ever want to take chances?

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said this on
30 Aug 2016 2:29:57 AM PST
When I was new to GF I lunched out six days in a row and nearly always had potato chips or something fried without obvious gluten, I ended up with a really severe case of dermatitis herpetiformis which lasted months and so learned my lesson! At home my husband has GF toast made with my bread to make things easier.

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said this on
30 Aug 2016 2:36:48 AM PST
Recalling the bad brain fog, mental/nerve issues, yeah never eating anything with straight up gluten again. That fear of your own body not doing what you will it, your own mind not being able to think and do things you know it should do is the scariest thing on this earth. Slight contamination will still lead me to loss of feeling in my fingers, extreme gut pains, and slight confusion. Boils down to no a little is not alright, I get really mad at people that say "Oh you can have a little bit". Brain damage is real, nerve damage is real, and dealing that that pain for a few hours on top of it is not worth it.

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said this on
30 Aug 2016 4:14:45 PM PST
Wow! I just don't get this. In December 2012, I went in for a normal over 50 test and out of the combination endoscopy/colonoscopy, my doctor said that I have celiac disease. This came as a huge shocker for me as I have never and I mean never ever had any of the stories that people tell about having celiac or any of the noted symptoms. But being a person that believes that he should do right for his body, I went on the gluten free diet. The diet was almost the most incredibly awful thing that I have ever done as I followed the nutritionist that my gastro doctor put me on and after 3 months I had seen a horrible change in my lifestyle as I put on 20 pounds and saw regular bowel movements turn into Playdoh inspired toy bowel movements. I stayed with the diet for 2 years and got a second opinion; the second opinion was one gastro doctor backing up the other gastro doctor, but 2 endoscopies later showed no signs of celiac, but I was now over 60 pounds heavier, lethargic, and looking like I had one foot in the grave as everyone said that my color looked awful. Blood tests showed that I was now anemic and had diabetes as A1C and blood sugars were up. My gastro doctor said that if I was unhappy that I should go off of the diet by eating regular foods every 10 then 5 days as long as I did not feel any of the noted symptoms that people with celiac complain about. Of course, I did not experience any of the symptoms. My A1C started dropping as did my sugars and my family said that my facial colors looked great again. In addition, I lost over 30 pounds and feel great as I am back walking and exercising daily. Of course, this leads my gastro doctor doing another endoscopy and saying that the villi are starting to fold over again. He recommended going back on the gluten free diet, but took notice of my improved health conditions especially the regular and normal bowel movements being off of the diet. He said that it seems that I am more allergic to being on the gluten free diet than having what one would suspect being off of the diet. I got to admit that being on the gluten free diet was the worse as I ate hot dogs on gluten free buns that were like eating hot dogs on drywall. Bagels that were gluten free from Sweet Note Bagels that took a while to find that were delicious that became no longer available to me without some long travel because the bagel shop owner thought that his wife's gluten free bagels that got stuck in your throat were better. And for the Irish-German in me, the gluten free beers were rated a step up from poison (excluding Brunehaut-so delicious but mortgage worthy, Omission which gluten free people complain about the levels, and Daura); but really none compare to a Heinekin, Becks, Coors Light, or Miller. Both Gastro doctors recommended Vodka or Tequila. Really, I want a beer and have to go for Vodka? Tequila is good for Margaritas, but there is the sugars again. And then there is the fight over regular bread in the toaster over buttering bread or using the same mayonnaise as everyone else, And I do the cooking for the family, which means after 10 hour work days cooking two meals because no one in the household can stand to taste gluten free pasta, breads, or other processed items in their meals. It's like marriage or the diet or get out? Well for anyone wondering why anyone would want to eat items with gluten sometimes... I'd rather go and eat them all the time, but my head still tells me to try the diet again. Which option puts me closer to the grave: watching the A1C go up on the diet or feeling great not knowing what the celiac is doing to the insides? All I ever wish is that I didn't listen to the gastro doctor make me get that first endoscopy as I don't have any symptoms and might never had known!

Sue Nobles
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said this on
31 Aug 2016 8:05:54 AM PST
I have learned that if my food is only contaminated by gluten, I experience a far greater response than if I straight up have that piece of cake! Shortly after being diagnosed, my sister was making pasta salad, and was making me some with GF pasta. She was already boiling her pasta, so she did a separate pot for mine. The problem came from using the same spoon to stir the pastas and then the same drainer. Within 24hrs. I was deep in the throws of GI distress!

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said this on
02 Sep 2016 2:13:21 PM PST
I apparently have an "anomalous" kind of celiac, manifesting only in failure to absorb. After several years of testing, endoscopies, and taking iron pills, my doctor has told me it is OK to not worry about "trace" gluten like french fries in "glutened" oil. I don't eat fries a lot in any event but it is nice to know I can eat SOMETHING if I go with the kids to McDonald's on the rare occasions we do. But after the same years of actually being gluten free, I do find I get really sick if I eat, say, a muffin. (I didn't get sick before, so I assume my body has adjusted to avoiding main sources of gluten. ) But what I really wish for is a pill, something like Lactaid, that would occasionally let me eat some Dim Sum. That is the thing I miss most.

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