Gluten Free and still Experiencing Celiac Symptoms?
I was diagnosed with Celiac Disease four years ago. I was not a stranger to the term Gluten Free, but I was clueless to the depths I would have to go to maintain my new diet.
With Celiac disease, it is not just an intolerance, it is not just a tummy ache because you ate something icky, it is not just a persnickety preference. It is a necessary frustration if you want to stay healthy. With Celiac disease, your immune system is broken and it decides to attack your small intestines when you eat grains containing a particular kind of gluten. This leads to inflammation, which makes it nearly impossible for your small intestines to do their job of absorbing nutrients. Celiac disease, if left untreated, can lead to serious health issues, including cancer.
Understanding the level of severity, takes the gluten free diet you must follow to a whole new level. It drives home the necessity of not cheating and being extra cautious. With Celiac disease, the level of care one must take with their diet changes dramatically. And it can be extremely overwhelming. I thought I had mine as under control as I was going to get it a few years ago. I was still experiencing symptoms occasionally, but figured I was doing well. I was not doing well. It wasn't until our toaster broke and we needed a new one that lights and whistles went off in my head. I had been toasting my GF bread in the same toaster as my non-GF husbands bread! I could not believe that I had not thought of this before.
This started a chain reaction, and the next thing I knew, our kitchen was getting an overhaul. Cross contamination is a huge issue and can lead to days of illness that could have easily been avoided. I want to share them with you.
Gluten on your Dishes
1) If your silverware drawer is under the counter that you typically prepare meals on, you might be in trouble. Making a sandwich, putting butter on bread, etc leave crumbs on the counter and they get swiped off the edge. Sounds simple enough, but what if you didn't close that drawer all the way? What if a few stray crumbs land on the edge of the drawer and fall into it the next time you reach for a spoon?
2) If you use a sponge to clean off your kitchen counters or dishes. All those tiny little holes are perfect places for stray bread crumbs to hide in. In our house, it is a little troublesome but we have a separate sponge for the counters that we rarely use on the dishes. Scrubbing out a dish that had a gluten containing meal can also leave behind dangerous bread crumbs. We was our dishes with a bristle brush that holds soap in the handle. This drastically reduces the bread crumbs that get moved all over the place. You would hope that the dishes were completely clean, but what if they aren't? That one crumb can make a difference.
3) The dish towel is another source of possible contamination. If you have kids in the house like I do, we both know that they have not washed their hands as well as they could have. How many times have you simply quick rinsed your hands while cooking? My husband does this too, but he eats gluten. So how clean is that towel? There could easily be bread crumbs hiding in that towel. We make a point to change our towel OFTEN, and if my husband has worked in the kitchen that night we ALWAYS change the towel when he is finished.
4) Cooking utensils with slots and holes. This one was a hard one for me to accept, but it is simply realistic. That little slot can harbor lots of things. Even in the dishwasher, things can get left behind. There is no way to know, every time, if it is completely clean. You have to separate your spoons. In our house, only non slotted, non holed spoons are allowed to be used for cooking. The slotted spoons may only be used for serving and are in a separate drawer. We have yet to run into a gluten containing dish that needed to be served with a slotted spoon.
5) Your strainer/colander is another possible culprit. Ever drained your noodles, cleaned your strainer and then picked it up and it still felt a little slimy on the bottom? Or have you ever cleaned it let it dry and lean found a crusty spot hiding on the bottom lip? And again is the problem with the slots and holes. How in the world can you possible get them completely clean. Noodle starch is like glue, it doesn't come off without a huge fight.
The level of care that must be taken in the kitchen can be daunting at first, but don't let that deter you from making these changes. Just take them a little bit at a time, and make your health your number one priority. It is up to you to keep yourself healthy, no one else can do it for you. My husband used to apologize to me constantly about forgetting to do this or that. I had to keep reminding him that he could not be expected to remember all the time, he did not have the disease and this as new to him as it is to me. It is not his responsibility to keep my eating safe, it is up to me. It is a great help for him to do the things I need him to to keep the kitchen clean, but until it becomes a new habit for everyone, it is up to the Celiac to keep an eye out for cross contamination.
This is in no way a comprehensive list, and I will be adding to this in future hubs. I will cover possible contamination while cooking, and another hub will be on hidden gluten sources in our food. Happy Eating!