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WHAT IS GLUTEN, REALLY: The Things You Don’t Know When You Roll Your Eyes at Your Friends With

The more I travel, the more people I meet. And the more people I meet, the more I realize PEOPLE HAVE NO IDEA WHAT GLUTEN IS. I guess because I’ve had to watch what I eat for so long now, I just can’t comprehend that fact that a lot of people can eat whatever they want (what a dream world that must be), so if ya can eat it, why would you know what it is, right? Well today we’re all gonna get educated. Hope that’s okay with you. Because if I have to explain one more time that french fries are made of potatoes which are, well, potatoes…. and not wheat…… who knows what might happen.


First things first. What is gluten? Well, my friends, let me tell you. According to the Celiac Disease Foundation, gluten is:

“a general name for the proteins found in wheat (wheatberries, durum, emmer, semolina, spelt, farina, farro, graham, wheat and einkorn), rye, barley and triticale – a cross between wheat and rye. Gluten helps foods maintain their shape, acting as a glue that holds food together.”

The foundation goes on to list foods that gluten can commonly be found in, but I’m here to tell you today that gluten is pretty much found in E V E R Y T H I N G. Single-handedly ruining 3 million American stomachs a year. We’re in this together people, I feel for you.

So then what is Celiac? Well, broadly, it’s a sensitivity to gluten. But to be diagnosed with actual Celiac and not just gluten-intolerance is so much more than that. Let me drop another definition for ya, again courtesy of the Celiac Disease Foundation:

“Celiac disease is a serious autoimmune disorder that can occur in genetically predisposed people where the ingestion of gluten leads to damage in the small intestine”

I guess the scariest part about the disease is not the immediate side effects that come from eating a slice of bread at your fav Italian restaurant (I’ll let you look that up on your own time, it ain’t pretty), but the fact that eating gluten can lead to long-term health complications. I have to remind myself of this a lot when I’m feeling like cheating or someone hands me a beer on a hot summer day. Essentially, if you have Celiac, when you put gluten in your body, it immediate kickstarts an immune response that attacks the small intestine, flattening the villi that line the inside walls and keeping any nutrients from being absorbed from any food we eat. It can then take months, even years, to restore the damage done from eating these foods, causing things like anemia, osteoporosis, epilepsy and migraines. Think eating, but not getting anything from your food, because your body is not equipped to absorb it.

While it can be tempting to cheat, people like myself who actually have Celiac are then prone to so many other health conditions. For women especially, it can lead to infertility and miscarriage, and even one that we all fear- the dreaded c word- cancer.

Now that we’ve got our terms right and an understanding of the disease, knowing that no, we don’t find it fun to be a pain in the ass asking for special different menu at restaurants and not being able to devour a pizza and 3 a.m. with friends, let’s break down food we can and can’t eat.

Foods you wouldn’t think have gluten and do:

  1. Certain vodkas (and rum and whiskey and beer)

  2. Oats: steel cut oats or gluten-free specified are the only truly safe bet

  3. Cereals: this one kills me. If I could have anything in my dream house it would be a cereal bar. But unless you’re a fan of Cheerios, Rice Chex or Rice Krispies, you’re pretty much out of luck. All of the fun cereals contain- you guessed it- gluten

Foods you would think have gluten and don’t:

  1. Corona Light: the holy grail of beers as far as I’m concerned. Just found out this one normal brand beer is gluten free and I am one happy girl this summer!!!

  2. Potatoes/rice/quinoa: the three that I always get the most questions about. Remember- no wheat, no problem!

Tricky things that you need to be careful of:

  1. Ordering salads at restaurants (usually come with croutons)

  2. Sauces (often thickened with flour that is made of wheat)

  3. Dairy products: unrelated, but many people who have Celiac also have a lactose intolerance (hellllllo again 👋🏼)

  4. Fried foods: while frying foods in itself is not a problem, many times these foods are first coated in a flour base which is problematic for obvious reasons (ex: mozz sticks, friend chicken, ya know, the good stuff)

While gluten-free living is a giant pain in the ass, I can say it’s helped me in so many ways. I reach for carbs a whole lot less (cookies, cakes, pasta, bread, pizza all taste a lot less fun gluten-free) and eat much more whole, raw foods (veggies, fruits, meat are all good to go)! While most gf food tastes like cardboard to me, there are a few go-to gluten-free brands that I can’t say enough about, listed below:

Live Gfree Cheesecake Sampler

Glutino English Muffins

Joy Gluten Free Ice Cream Cones

Schar Gluten Free Pizza Crusts

Wegmans Gluten Free Frozen Waffles

Do you have celiac and also feel the stigma attached to an invisible disease? Do you have a favorite gf brand that has changed your life? Send me a message- I’d love to hear it all!

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