By Melinda Martell
Guest Blogger, College of Nursing and Health Care Professions
The ultimate challenge becoming gluten-free is eating outside the home. Whether at families, friends’ houses or restaurants, cross-contamination is every Celiac’s worst nightmare. It only takes a crumb of gluten to affect a Celiac. Cross-contamination is a real threat that can happen when using shared toasters, colanders and cutting boards. Even the bulk food bins at stores can be contaminated. Sharing mayonnaise, peanut butter, jelly, butter, etc. is also a potential source of cross-contamination. A tip is to buy these items in a squeezable form.
When dining at someone’s house, we prefer to provide food for our son, knowing it is completely safe. If we are using a shared grill, we wrap my son’s food in heavy-duty aluminum foil. Meal prepping has become a staple in our household, specifically for those last-minute invites. Keeping cupcakes as well as frosting in the freezer for birthday parties is a lifesaver.
Going out to a restaurant is something researched well in advance, especially before traveling. We always call ahead to confirm if we can be accommodated. We ask how the kitchen avoids cross-contamination, is the fryer dedicated to French fries (oil that is used for frying gluten-filled foods is contaminated), is there a dedicated gluten-free prep space, do they utilize clean or separate cookware, do they clean the grill?
If we cannot be accommodated, we either will not go or we will ask if we can bring outside food to ensure our child’s safety. Thankfully, there are tons of gluten-free restaurants, bakeries and different gluten-free food items continuously being developed.
There are a multitude of studies, clinical trials and tools being explored to help make living with Celiac disease easier. One of our favorite developments is a portable gluten detector called Nima. A pea-sized amount of food is secured in a Nima specific capsule and pushed into the machine, the Nima tests the food and can test some beverages for gluten. When an item has appeared to have gluten in it, our child does not eat it. If we are dining out, we kindly inform the server that gluten has been detected and reiterate the measures to avoid cross-contamination. If they are confident, they can safely remake the meal we give the establishment another opportunity. If they cannot safely make it or if it comes back gluten detected a second time we leave.
Currently, a vaccine is being tested that will help protect against accidental gluten exposure. The goal is to eventually develop this particular vaccine to allow persons with Celiac disease to have a normal unrestricted diet. Several different drugs are in various stages of development that could potentially help break down gluten, interrupt the effects of gluten and protect against the immune reaction effects of gluten by inducing immune tolerance. At times living with Celiac disease can be challenging, but with new developments and a little effort, it is not impossible to live a normal, healthy life.
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