A gluten sensitivity or wheat allergy is just like a peanut allergy, but the social situations involving gluten seem to be much different than those involving peanuts. No one would ever say "just try one cashew" to someone with a severe nut allergy, so why do they say "just take one bite" to people with wheat allergies?
Even though people are becoming more educated about gluten sensitivity, there are still plenty of people for whom "gluten" is still mysterious. Here are a few tips on how to act when you're gluten-free around someone who's not, and when you're not gluten-free around someone who is, to keep the peace.
1) If you're going to someone's house for dinner and you're gluten-free, tell them ahead of time, so they're not surprised when you don't touch the main course.
It may sound obvious, but if eating gluten-free has become second nature to you, this simple courtesy can very easily slip your mind.
2) If someone brings a dessert that you can't eat when they arrive at your house, don't remind them that you're gluten-free, even if you can't believe they don't know by now.
Someone who is not gluten-free may not know that brownies aren't either, because they don't need to know.
3) Don't force everyone around you to eat gluten-free, even if you think they might have a gluten sensitivity and don't know it.
It's perfectly fine to share that you had similar symptoms before you changed your diet. But then it's up to them to decide whether to check with their doctor to see if a gluten-free diet is right for them.
4) Call restaurants ahead of time to find out about gluten-free options so that you aren't surprised when their entire menu is made with some sort of wheat.
It will be uncomfortable for everyone when you're friends are all eating their tortillas, and you're eating the lemon from your water.
5) Don't be surprised if the people you are talking to are tired of hearing the phrase "gluten-free."
As much as it is a necessary diet for a serious health issue, it's also become somewhat of a fad diet, and can start to feel like an overplayed song on the radio.
But on the other hand...
1) No, your gluten-free friend likely cannot "just have a taste," and yes, it can be that bad if he or she does.
Depending on the severity of the gluten intolerance, some people can indeed try small bites of foods that are not gluten-free, but if someone declines, it's highly likely that even a small taste will cause very serious issues.
2) We told you that we are gluten-free before going to your house for dinner, and you graciously made an amazing side salad to accompany the pork dish.
You were so careful not to put croutons on our plate, and we really appreciate it. But believe us when we say there is gluten in that dressing. It's not that we don't appreciate all the extra care you've taken in preparing the meal. We understand that there is gluten hidden in places that even amaze us, but we really need you to leave off the dressing, even if the salad won't be complete without it.
3) Don't keep asking what might happen if we eat that breadstick.
4) Yes we may have gained/lost weight since going on a gluten-free diet, but don't be appalled by the 10-pound difference.
If I've lost weight, it's because I've stopped eating all those carb-filled foods like pasta and bread. And if I've gained weight, it's because my body has healed and is finally absorbing the proper nutrients. Even though talking about a diet opens the door to talking about weight, we don't need to hear about how we've "put on some pounds" or are "wasting away to nothing." We need to disclose our diet because it's like dealing with a food allergy.
5) You're absolutely right when you say that we're picky eaters.
We need to be! But don't be offended and say I'm being picky if I decline your tiramisu. I am not choosing not to eat it to spite you for some reason. I'm choosing not to eat it because that's the only choice I have.
Copyright © 2014 Celia Kaye
All Rights Reserved
Celia Kaye is the name under which writer-filmmaker Kaitlin Puccio pens articles about her experience with gluten sensitivity. Kaitlin has written a forthcoming children's book on Celiac and gluten sensitivity for the Celia Kaye lifestyle brand, and has been a contributor to MindBodyGreen.com. Follow her on Twitter, like her on Facebook, and visit her at CeliaKaye.com.