Schnucks Gluten Free Aisle
Sigh. After months of avoiding gluten like the poison my body believes it to be, I recently glutened myself but good (more on how in a minute). This time, for whatever reasons, the reaction is a little different than usual. Normally, the consequences I suffer are 90% in the digestive system – hideous stomach pain, severe bloating, weight gain (as much as 5 pounds each time it happens). This particular time, however, the reactions were 90% respiratory. The stomach isn’t happy, mind you, and there is bloating, but the pain and discomfort there is minimal compared to what it normally is. This time the suffering is airway tightness, phlegm, and wheezing (my asthma thought it’d get involved).
I did some research and this is normal with both gluten intolerance and Celiac Disease. The reactions can greatly vary – not just from person to person, but within one person. An individual’s response can depend upon the particular type of gluten they consumed, how much they consumed, and even what they were eating with the offending gluten.
My most recent “gluten downfall” was so dumb, on my part, I’m hesitant to even mention it. The only reason I’m going to go ahead and shine the spotlight on my moment of ignorance is the fact that I hope someone else can learn from my mistake.
Here’s the thing – when you go months without an issue, you tend to let your guard down. I don’t know why this is, but it is what it is. Human nature, I suppose. That AND the fact that I lived my whole life (up until a few years ago) eating whatever I wanted. Learning a whole new way of eating isn’t easy – take it from me.
Each time this happens, I vow “Never again! I’m going to diligently read everything I put into my cart BEFORE it even goes into the cart.” For months I did just that. Even things I “knew” were safe got left behind if they didn’t have the magic words “gluten free” written on them.
A few days ago, I dropped the ball. I was (in my defense) in a store I don’t normally shop for groceries in – Wal-Mart. In my favorite grocery store, Kroger, I know what’s up. I know where my “safe” food is and I buzz around these spots like a bee around honey. I was looking for a gluten free pizza in Wal-Mart and noticed they didn’t carry the ones I normally buy at Kroger. I looked up and down their pizza aisle – nothing. Then, I went to their tiny “gluten free frozen food section” and at least saw a familiar brand, “Amy’s.” The Amy’s pizzas were lying right there with a brand of gluten free pizza I wasn’t familiar with.
In a hasty moment, my brain said, “I buy Amy’s food all the time – it’s here with gluten free pizza…. this is the Amy’s Gluten Free Pizza with Rice Crust…” I threw it in the cart without reading the box.
Unlike a brand like Glutino’s, Amy’s products are not all gluten free. I knew this, but… well… there it was! I brought it home, cooked it, and (thank goodness) ate just one piece because I had a large salad with it.
I did, mind you, recognize that the consistency was different than normal gluten free pizza. But, to be perfectly honest, they are getting so darn amazing that it really didn’t stand out that much to me. However, it wasn’t long before I felt my airways tightening up. Then, sure enough, there came the unmistakable stomach pain. Then the headache. Then wheezing. Then the realization that I had made a big mistake.
Why do we let our guard down more with ourselves than we ever would with loved ones? If I had been buying a pizza for my daughter Emily, who also has to eat gluten free for health reasons, you’d better believe I’d have scoured the box.
At any rate, I just wanted to share my story as a reminder to you to be diligent and always, always, always read the box. Look at the ingredients and look for the words “gluten free.”
A Few “Takeaways:”
- If you’re in a store you aren’t accustomed to shopping in, be extra cautious. You’ll see different products and (like me) will fail to find the ones you normally buy. This is the time to be EXTRA cautious, not less than you normally are.
- In a perfect world, all stores would have an entire aisle dedicated solely to gluten free food. They’d train their workers and would be diligent about making CERTAIN only gluten free food made it into this aisle. We don’t live in a perfect world – we’re the ones who have to be trained (by ourselves) and it’s up to us to be diligent.
- Even in stores where there are gluten free aisles, you still have to read the labels. Schnucks is one of the best stores I’ve seen when it comes to having “Gluten Free aisles” but I’ve found random non-gluten free food in their aisles before. Not only do some workers not fully understand what is or isn’t gluten free, customers can, themselves, mindlessly place food where it doesn’t belong. Never assume. Ever.
- Never, ever assume a brand you’re familiar with only makes gluten free food. I’ve seen this online before with Amy’s and a few other brands. Just because a company makes “some” gluten free options, never assume that everything they make is gluten free. There are very, very few companies who specialize in gluten free food. Bottom line: Always read the label.
- If you’ve gone weeks and even months without an issue, celebrate the fact BUT realize that this is actually very dangerous territory. Yes, your diligence and, let’s face it, sometimes luck, have paid off and things have gone swimmingly – but you’re still swimming in dangerous water. This is the time to be MORE diligent, not LESS.
- In doing research the past few days, I found a lot of people (disturbingly enough) who play roulette with their health. Some who were “craving” a McDonald’s sandwich or a doughnut gave in and paid for it by being sick for a few weeks. I was in no place to judge, mind you, so I refrained, but helllllo???? What some fail to realize (or accept?) is this: When we cannot digest gluten/wheat, we don’t just hurt ourselves in the short run. We’re hurting ourselves in the long run. It is a big deal and suggesting otherwise is just fooling yourself. What’s more, if your reaction involves airway constriction/tightness, just one “mistake” could prove to be your last. Respiratory reactions are incredibly serious and no food… absolutely no food.. is worth it.
Over the past year, I can count my missteps on one hand. This one is just particularly troubling to me because it’s something I vowed I’d never do again – let my guard down so low that I don’t even read something before putting it into my cart.
This time when I say, “Never again,” I absolutely, positively mean it. While the “flu feeling” that often lingers for a good week is horrific to live with – this respiratory reaction was pretty frightening. I don’t at all frighten easily when it comes to respiratory distress, after all I’ve had asthma all my life. There are times, in fact, when my husband notices I’m wheezing or short of breath before I do! This time was just very disturbing and one I’m not going to forget.
I only hope that my experience can help someone else keep from having the DUH moment I did.