Still Getting Gluten Part 2 – Eating In Your Home

This series is aimed at helping people who are on a gluten-free diet, but suspect that they are consuming gluten unintentionally.  It is also great for anyone who is just starting out on the diet.

Please read Part 1 –  Gluten-Free Food

After you have made sure the food you are eating is indeed gluten free, next you need to take a look at your home.  Specifically, your kitchen.

kitchenThis is not my kitchen.

Look for Cross Contamination at Home

If you do not have a gluten-free kitchen, you need to be very careful.  It only takes a crumb (actually even less) to make someone sick.  A completely gluten free kitchen and home is certainly the safest way to go, but it is not the only option.

For ten years I was the only person out of five in our family who needed to be on a gluten-free diet.  My husband and I decided we would not eliminate all gluten from our house, but we knew that we needed to do whatever it would take to make sure I was healthy and not accidentally consuming gluten.

Here’s what we do:

  • My kitchen cabinets, work space, and cooking tools are all gluten free.
  • I only cook and bake gluten free food.
  • We keep a portable counter at one end of our kitchen that holds all the gluten-containing foods. kitchen island

This is not the one we use, but you get the idea.

Keep the gluten contained. When I first started on the gluten-free diet, gluten filled breads and cereals were still in the main part of the kitchen.  I was also having gluten reactions on a fairly regular basis.  When we moved all the gluteny foods to a separate cabinet that was away from my cooking area, there was a big drop in how often I was getting sick.

Get rid of wheat flour. While we do have gluten filled foods in our house, I do not have any gluten containing flours in my house.  Personally, I think it is almost impossible to bake with wheat flour and fix gluten-free meals in the same kitchen.  Flour gets in the air (which means it can get in someone’s mouth and be swallowed) and can settle anywhere.

colander

Have separate cooking tools. If you decided to cook gluten-filled foods such as pasta for those in your family who can eat it, it is a good idea to have separate utensils and other cooking items.   Look for things that are particularly difficult to clean.  Colanders with all their little holes can pose a problem.  Having two of them is a good idea.  Porous items are also a concern such as wooden spoons and cutting boards.

Have two toasters. Toasters are full of crumbs and can certainly make a gluten-free person sick.  At our house we have two toasters—a black one for gluten containing bread and a white one for gluten-free bread.

Have separate condiments. Keep two of anything that people dip a knife into, spread on their bread, and then dip again.  This includes butter, mayonnaise, jelly, and peanut butter.  Use a sharpie or bright round stickers to label the gluten-free condiments.

ketchup and mustard

Consider separate squeeze bottles. Squeeze bottles are less of a problem than jars that are dipped into, but people are still handling the bottles with crumbs on their hands.  It is also possible that the top of the bottle will touch the bread and a crumb could stick to it.  I got very sick from such an accident years ago.  I used a bottle of honey that my young kids had used with their English muffins.  After I got sick I went back and looked at the honey bottle and there was a very large crumb stuck to the top right next to the hole where the honey comes out.  Apparently there had been another crumb there too.

Keep surfaces clean. Surfaces are a place where crumbs can go unnoticed.  Be sure that tables and counters are wiped well.  A good way to make sure they are clean is to get eye level with the surface.  You might be surprised by what you see!

As you can see, there are lots of opportunities for gluten cross contamination in your own home, and I have probably forgotten some.

question markCan you think of anything I forgot?

 

 

The Gluten Free Survival Guide is a very practical and thorough eBook which I recommend to beginners.  The link to the survival guide is an affiliate link which will take you to another site.




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Comments

  1. I’m betting you wish that was your kitchen. Lol! We just made our whole family at home at keast, gluten free. There is no more gluten in the kitchen at all. We had to be absolutely sure there was no chance of cross contamination for our bake shop. Wanted to mention the sponges. My brother was washing his glutened dishes with our sponge. Nope, can’t do that either. Since we have started our bakery, we have realized even more how careful you need to be. I can’t kiss my husband if he eats any gluten, ugh.

    • Sponges are a good one. Sometimes I go to kiss my husband and he clenches his lips and turns his head away. It’s always a bit unnerving for one second then I realized why he’s doing it–for my protection.

  2. Hi
    Love your article. The one thing I would add is a separate butter dish. That has been one of the most important changes we made. My daughter and I are gf but my son and husband are not. They have both been well trained about using spoons in condoments and not having them touch the bread or whatever they are spreading it on but to put it on their plate and then use their own knives.
    Thanks!

  3. Melissa D says:

    We have a combined gluten/gluten-free home also. Don’t forget about the small appliances that can’t be cleaned easily. For example, my family loves waffles, so we have 2 waffle makers, one for GF waffles, one for regular.

  4. We are much like you. I have one small cabinet that stores packaged gluten things for my son’s lunches. The rest of the house is gluten free and it is easier that way. We changed over when we discovered celiac. My husband was easy but keeping a 3 year old out of the gluten foods was harder than just eliminating them.

  5. You mentioned some great tips and pointers for those who are just starting out trying to decontaminate their kitchens of gluten. I would also add for people to check their medicine cabinets as well. Gluten is notorious for hiding in medications and vitamins.

  6. Linda, these are great tips. The ones shared by the above commenters are also good – I was going to suggest the sponge idea too. I also try to frequently wipe down areas that gluteny fingers touch, not just counters – backs of chairs, doorknobs, the handles on the fridge, the sink handles, the soap dispenser, the lightswitch. And I go through dish towels like mad when the kids are around, because the gluten-eating occurs more often, and they have a tendency to wash their hands as quickly as possible at the kitchen sink, drying their hands on the dish towel, and I while I try to keep an eye on things, I can’t always be there behind them, and they may very well wipe crumbs on the towel. (or heck, even use the towel to clean up their mess!) I am planning on writing a blog post in a few weeks for the GFCA about gluten-free living – would you mind if I linked to your post and gave you some credit as well? These are great sources of information.

  7. Hi Linda,
    I’m still new to GF. My 11 year ols daughter has Celiac. I have a question about ovens. Can my oven be contaminated? I washed and wiped the inside out. It is an electric bake and convection oven. Do you think if I bake food or cookies with gluten and then the next time I use it to bake GF food or bread etc I’m contaminating my GF food? Do I need to clean it every timeI bake non GF?
    Thank you,
    Tracy

    • My main concern regarding baking with wheat flour would be the contamination that could take place in the rest of the kitchen when you are working with and mixing the flour. Generally, an oven should be safe if it has been cleaned. However, I wonder if a convection oven could be more of a problem because of the fan. If flour or crumbs got into a part that can’t be cleaned and then is circulated the next time the oven is used, it could cause contamination. I would be sure not to put any dry flour (such as dusting the outside of something) in the oven.

  8. Those are all wonderful tips! Wish my kitchen came with those beautiful stainless steel appliances. Wouldn’t that be nice?

  9. My boyfriend recently moved in a few months ago and we’re still working on keeping his food and my food separate. Right now the biggest problem we have is him not putting food on a plate, as opposed to putting it right on the counter (he likes sandwiches and bread a lot). What would you recommend to use to clean the counter? I usually take a dish rag and wipe it down, but then I realized I’m using the same rag to clean my dishes. I was thinking maybe bleach, but I try to keep things earth-friendly and wasn’t sure if it’d be a good idea to be constantly wiping down my counter with bleach. He’s trying his hardest to keep the kitchen gluten free so I try not to give him too hard of a time (we only have one usable counter) but I was wondering what else you’d recommend. I had no problem being gluten free when I was living by myself, but I’m finding it challenging to keep everything separate. Because we live in a cheap/inexpensive apartment, there’s not a lot of counter space or a dish washer, and I’m finding those are probably the biggest areas for cross contamination (I let him have my old pans I didn’t use anymore for the things for him to cook).

    • Sara, Since gluten is not a bacteria or germ, using bleach doesn’t “kill” it. You simply need to remove it. I would recommend using one cloth for wiping the counters that have gluten and another cloth for washing your dishes. No need to apologize. :)

  10. I also apologize if what I wrote is all over the place; I recently had a small procedure and have been taking pain killers so I tend to just speak freely instead of going back and checking it :)

  11. We just made our kitchen entirely gluten free, no wheat eaten or cooked in our kitchen. But my brother and his wife and kids live in our basement. My SIL eats all wheat everything, she is a carbitarian. My husband made gf bread yesterday in on old stoneware loaf pan. He washed it out really good, but 30 mins later I was in the bathroom. This was a lesson for us. Only new stoneware from now on. Well my SIL knows not to bake in my stoneware pans because of my problem plus we use them for our gf bake shop. While we were at the farmers market on Saturday we baked wheat muffins in my stoneware pan. The kids said she washed it really good. I was furious. She knows better and is risking my health, my 2 kids health, and my business. So yesterday when I was running to the bathroom, I said to my husband while she was standing there, “We learned a painful lesson not to use old stoneware even if its been washed out.” When I left he told her about the loaf pan and that no one can cook or bake upstairs. Since they only have a toaster oven they are really mad at me. They are calling me arrogant and selfish. All they need to do is get a hot plate. But no it turned into a screaming match and almost a fist fight between my SIL and my husband. They just don’t care that I keep getting sick. OMG, it is a very hard situstion now. My poor dad is in the middle of this. If I was ALLERGIC would they care? I bet if it was gonna kill me they’d care. Ugh!

    • Sorry about that Sunnie. It sounds like a very difficult situation. I hope your SIL is able to come to a better understanding of how dangerous gluten is to your health.

  12. Hi Linda, I have been GF for over a year now and my family now eats almost exclusively GF. I keep getting sick though and this past week decided to eliminate the kid’s non gf cereal in hope that maybe it is this causing my problems. I don’t know if I am maybe getting some crumbs or if a bit of the raisin bran sticks in the bowl or what.
    Where I really am having problems is at my folk’s house. My Dad has celiacs but does not show many symptoms, my sister and I are very sensitive to gluten. Whenever we go home we get a little bit sick – not running to the bathroom mind you, but sick. My Mom scubbed her cast iron pans extremely well then re-seasoned them. I wonder if this was not enough? Do you have much experience with cast-iron?
    Oh, and I love your blog. Your recipes are great!

    • I have used old cast iron skillets. Two of mine came from my mom and I scrubbed them with a brillo pad before re-seasoning them. Having said that, I think there is still a possibility that your mom’s could harbor gluten. My mom seldom used her skillets for breaded items so the risk was low, but some people use them frequently for corn bread. When I am at my parents, I wash or rinse every pot, pan, baking dish, cooking utensil, etc. before it is used for my food. If your mom’s cast iron skillet was scrubbed well, I would look elsewhere first, but not rule it out.

      Thanks for your encouragement!

  13. I have spent much time lately pondering cross contamination. I don’t have an official diagnosis, but came to the conclusion a year and a half ago on my own that I must have celiac (serious vitamin deficiency/malabsorbtion at its worst, among many other symptoms). I went GF and my health got much, much better. I don’t show symptoms very easily now (most noticable symptom is constipation) and therefore don’t really know if I keep getting miniscule amounts of gluten regularly through cross contamination since my husband is not GF. How bad do you think it is it for a celiac who don’t show many symptoms to keep getting cross contaminated? And I also want to add that I, too, love your blog. It’s the best GF blog that I’ve come across! : )

    • Hi Lisa. What Dr. Fasano of the Center for Celiac Reasearch has said is that while no gluten is best, an occasional accidental ingestion (even a large one) is better than getting small amounts on a regular basis. The reason is that ongoing exposure does not allow your body to heal. You could ask a doctor to run celiac blood tests and if that is elevated, than you are probably getting contamination. However, even if it is negative it does not mean there are no problems. I would steer clear of products that other people consistently react to (such as General Mills products) and follow the suggestions made in this and my other posts. Symptoms are tricky. While the presence of them can be very good indicators that someone ingested gluten, the lack of them does not mean anything. Some people with biopsy diagnosed celiac disease do not have obvious outward symptoms at all, but were diagnosed because of a family member or a less obvious symptom such as osteoporosis.

      Thanks for your blog encouragement! I love hearing from people like you.

  14. Great post. Really hits close to home for me. I’m the one with celiac and husband and 3 kids eat regular. I cook gluten free but everyone else still has there bread and cereal and rolls. We have one gluten counter top w gluten toaster and try to keep things as contained as possible. My situation sounds very similar to yours except my kids are younger (6,4 and 8 months) and are very messy and crumby especially my 4 year old. When I see the amount of crumbs after she eats on the table and the floor, I often wonder if she gets anything in her mouth. I’ve been gluten free for a year and a half and honestly don’t feel any different but then I didn’t really have any noticeable symptoms. My blood tests show my levels have gone down to normal so my doctor says not to worry about cross contamination buy I have to admit I’m very nervous about it and very uncomfortable in my own home. I’m always on guard and always watching to see who ate where and who touched what so I know where to clean. Hopefully as they get older and neater and don’t eat at home as often, things will get better for me. Thanks for addressing this topic.

    • Sharon ~ I can totally relate. I was diagnosed with celiac disease 10 years ago, so my kids were much younger at the time. I think it is very wise of you to be careful about cross contamination, and unwise of your doctor to suggest that you don’t need to be. Except for sometimes when we have hamburgers, I never serve gluten at dinner. If we have pasta or any type of bread, it is always gluten free and everyone eats it. That makes dinner time more comfortable. I’m not worried about stray crumbs and can relax and enjoy my family. I hope you are able to get to a place where you are more comfortable in your own home.

  15. Our home is gf but sometimes we are entertaining and there will be gluten foods in our home. The first time this happened I had a moment of panic. Now, I get out pretty little bowls to put condiments, butter, jelly, etc in with a spoon for each. That way I can throw away the remainder, wash the bowl very well, and not risk contamination. You may even want to have a set of small bowls for this (dollar stores and garage sales are great places to look).

  16. jecika says:

    I’m new to this GF, I’ve been trying to live gluten free for about 3 months now.
    My MD was really surprised how fast i reacted, but i still have a problem, even when i use GF flour i still get a reaction, i get swelling all over my body and face, not as much as before, but still, i feel bloated, moody, so i’m not sure what to do, because i’m pretty sure now that something , maybe still gluten, is causing this, and i don’t have a clue where im getting from.Little help please.
    Oh, and what to eat instead of bread if i want to be 100 per cent sure it’s GF, or even in my case grain free.
    Thanks

    • Jecika, I’m sorry to hear you’re still having problems. What brand of flour are you using? Really, the only way to be 100% gluten free is to avoid grains and processed foods. Stick with fresh fruits and vegetables, meats, and dairy if you can handle that. It might be a good idea to do that for a while until you are feeling better, and then slowly introduce other foods. Keep in mind that some products, including gf flours, are contaminated more than others. Check out individual companies and see if they test their products to 20 parts per million (ppm) of gluten, 10 ppm or 5 ppm. Obviously, the lower the better.

  17. Thanks for all your tips I live alone so making my kitchen GF was not an issue… The other night I made a stir fry and got severely glutened and took forever to figure out why because it couldn’t be the veggies, or chicken, or specific GF sauce… Finally stumbled on the culprit which you highlight here and wish I knew earlier…. An old wooden spoon! Needless to say, I didn’t have a nice guide like yours to tell me to throw out wooden spoons, cutting boards or hard to clean cooking appliances. Thank you from all of us newly GFers for saving us!

  18. I am waiting for a diagnosis, a new Dr. has taken me off gluten, and once I started researching, I hit almost every marker of celiacs…down to psoriasis, miscarraiges, and intense intestinal pain, my whole life…as a baby, my daughter had severe reflux, with constipation and diarrhea…usually reflux kids get one not the other…behavioral issues, where I thought she was pdd when she younger….so many characteristics…My dad has gluten sensitivity, wont eat breads, but other things don’t bother him…
    Since going gluten free, I have learned that cross contamination is AWFUL, and people think I’m nuts….actually, last month, I would have thought I was nuts…now I get it.
    When I make my kids lunch (usually with gluten) I think it is affecting me, I get congested. And my eyes start to itch if I tough my face.
    Another question….one of the things I have had before going gf is SEVERE congestion after a meal….especially when I eat out….Did anyone else experience that?
    Any advice is great!

    • Joy, you could have more than one type of reaction going on. What I mean is that you could be celiac or gluten intolerant AND have an allergy to wheat and other foods. When I was first diagnosed, the smell of bread affected me, but that is an allergic reaction, not a celiac reaction. My children (youngest was 4) learned to make their own sandwiches, and for a few months they actually did it in the basement.

      I also had allergic reactions to corn. I narrowed it down to the point where eating one piece of plain popcorn cooked only in corn oil caused my sinuses to fill up. I was very strict about eliminating it for 6 months or more and then was able to add it back in to my diet. Try eating simple meals with few ingredients and take note of when you react certain ways.

      • Linda,
        I just walked through the prepared food and bakery isle at whole foods, I thought I was going to die. My nose startwd to run, itchy eyes etc. I think you are right. It must be an allergy as well. I feel a little better now that im out of the store..i was fine until I hit that section.

  19. Hi Linda, my daughter who is 13 years has celiac. and last week we saw an allergist, she did a blood work and she found that my daughter was allergic to almost all food that she is eating now: rice, potatoes, chicken, beans, tree nut, almonds and the list is long. I really don’t know what to do. I am thinking about making an appointment to see a dietitian or nutrition, any thought. thank you.

    • Hi Sarah. That’s a tough situation. Hopefully those allergies will go away as your daughter’s intestines heal. I know her options are limited, but she shouldn’t eat any one food every day or she might develop an allergy to it too. I would give her whatever veggies and protein she can eat. Also try quinoa. If it’s not something she’s been eating then it should be safe. There are several varieties/colors and you can find them online, at a health food store, or in the health food section of a regular grocery store.

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