The fact that people with celiac disease can have very different symptoms or no symptoms at all has made my gluten free journey a little frustrating. I have always been a sensitive celiac, though to a lesser degree now than I was for years. That means that I react to trace amounts of gluten. Foods that bother me don’t bother all celiacs.
And it is frustrating because many people don’t get it. They say that I must be reacting to some other food because this food IS gluten free. Or they say that it doesn’t matter. That just because I’m reacting doesn’t mean that another celiac can’t safely eat that product. That may or may not be true, but I don’t like people (especially those who advise other people) brushing off my reactions.
It’s frustrating when people see you as being an annoyance, as someone who just wants to cause problems. I’m not that kind of person at all.
The Bright Side of Being a Sensitive Celiac
I sometimes wish I wasn’t a sensitive celiac, but there is one good thing about it – I know what I can and can’t eat. I’m not consuming small amounts of gluten and silently causing damage to my body that I will pay for later, which can be true for others.
Some people don’t have obvious, immediate symptoms when they ingest gluten – even if it’s a lot of gluten. But that gluten is still causing damage to the villi in their intestines which in turn will cause long-term consequences. They were diagnosed with celiac disease without those clear symptoms (usually because a family member was diagnosed). So clearly, they can’t depend on reactions to tell them that something contains gluten.
Gluten in Processed Foods
Have you ever wondered why the FDA allows 20 ppm of gluten in foods that are labeled gluten free rather than saying that there has to be zero amount of gluten? It’s because in processed foods, that’s almost impossible (plus we have no way of test for 0 ppm). So when you eat processed foods, especially any that are not produced in a completely dedicated facility, you are getting trace amounts of gluten. Remember that cross contamination can happen in various places, including transportation.
When you eat a lot of processed foods, those trace amounts can add up and affect you. For years after I was diagnosed, I was a very sensitive celiac. Tiny amounts of gluten would result in unpleasant symptoms. Eventually, though, those symptoms faded and I didn’t know if I was just doing a great job of avoiding gluten or if I was simply not reacting to such small amounts.
Then I started blogging. And companies started sending me products to sample and review. I was eating a lot more processed gluten-free food than I had been before. And guess what happened? Those symptoms came back, not just when I ate products but in other situations too, such as eating out at a restaurant or someone’s home.
Who knows for sure, but I think that after being careful for so many years I became less sensitive. Then when I started eating more foods with trace amounts, my sensitivity came back.
While I think that cooking and baking from scratch helps with this problem, it doesn’t completely eliminate it. Flours can also have cross contamination, and it’s important to consider their source. The best way to avoid contamination is to eat naturally gluten-free foods. That has been much easier for me to do since I went grain free.
What’s my point?
I have several.
1. If you’re a sensitive celiac too, know that you’re not alone, and try to think of it as a blessing. It’s much easier to say no to foods when you know it will make you very sick.
2. If you’re not a sensitive celiac, you can be grateful, but don’t let that lure you into thinking you can be less diligent about avoiding gluten. Listen to what sensitive celiacs say about the products you eat. If a lot of people react to something you eat on a regular basis, you could be putting your health in danger.
3. Naturally gluten-free foods are the safest and healthiest foods for us to consume. I know everyone likes breads and treats (and I share plenty of those recipes here), but don’t make them the mainstay of your diet.
What about you. Are you a sensitive celiac?
And if you need help with the gluten-free diet, be sure to check out my eBook, How to Be Gluten Free: 10 Steps to a Gluten-Free Life.