Five Lessons I’ve Learned as a Gluten-Free Heiress

A Celiac’s worst nightmare

When I first heard the word ‘celiac’, I was surprised to learn that I was one of the millions of people living with the disease. To my then shock and horror, I discovered that I had not only celiac disease, but also a severe allergy to dairy, peanuts, eggs, and citrus foods.

In the two years since my initial diagnosis, I’ve run the gamut of alternative substitutes, cleanses, medicines, and more in hopes of finding the magic cure, a way to live a normal life in the midst of dealing with my allergies.

Although there are no miracle cures (yet!), I have found countless ways to change my life which I hope may be of some small use to another individual suffering from acute food allergies.

1. Don’t be discouraged.

I’ve cried over my food allergies. Believe it or not, discouragement is normal, and altogether expected when finding out that your entire way of life will have to be changed. My life is even more difficult than most celiacs, because I am also allergic to dairy and eggs. Be of good cheer—you can live a normal life, eat out, and although you may not be able to enjoy many of your old favorite foods, you will still have a high quality of life.

2. Know your diagnosis.

Ask your doctor or health care provider detailed questions and make sure you know what allergies you suffer from. Avoid these foods if possible, and make sure that you read labels carefully. Look for the hidden names of your allergens. I knew I was allergic to wheat, yet never realized that the barley root in my tea was still causing me to suffer pain.

3. Have fun and be experimental!

When trying out alternatives, make sure you keep a good sense of humor. I’ve tried so many different flours that I can’t even attempt to list them.

Chocolate chip cookies made out of potato flour may be a bit unusual, but it is amazing how good they can taste. Rice pasta cooked al dente is delicious with a butter and garlic sauce. A friend of mine and I made a party out of making black bean brownies, but that’s another story.

Learn to enjoy the foods on your okay list, be creative, and use your imagination!

4. Do restaurant research.

Scared to go out to eat with friends for fear you’ll have a reaction? I understand, but this is something easily cured. List all your favorite restaurants, get copies of their menus, and talk to the chefs. Take a look at the menus, jot down the dishes that do not obviously contain your trigger foods, and contact the restaurant for more information about seasonings, sauces, or any other ingredients.

Each time I have done this, I have been treated with the utmost respect and a desire to assist. They don’t want you to get sick any more than you do. Many restaurants, especially chains, publish their ingredient lists online for handy referencing.

5. Talk to your doctor about medical treatments.

I know this may be controversial for some people, but for me, this has helped me to continue functioning in normal environments. Because of my specific allergies, my doctor could prescribe a sublingual stomach relaxer. This mild pill has been invaluable for occasions when I go to dinner at friend’s homes, travel, or find myself in a situation without any allergen-free foods.

For some individuals, this is an alternative, but for others, not even a stomach relaxer can stave off an allergic reaction. I do not recommend continued use of these drugs, because essentially, they are only a Band-Aid to the problem, but in moderation, they can be useful. Again, they are not for everyone, and please check with your licensed health care provider before starting any medication regime.

However, this pill is not entirely side-effect free. One of my allergic reactions is lethargy, and this is something not even the pill can correct, and along with dry mouth, I generally get a reaction of short-lived drowsiness. Hence, my motto is “Don’t Cheat and Drive.”

It’s an unwritten rule that if I have to cheat, I avoid driving because of my dulled reflexes. But for a family gathering at my house, an event with friends, or a birthday party where I am not the one behind the wheel, an allergy pill is just what the doctor ordered.

Over the next several weeks and months, I’ll be writing more about gluten-free living, my favorite substitutes, and even some recipes I have fallen in love with. If you’d like to say informed, please subscribe to my RSS feed!