If you have to (choose to, want to, get to…) eat gluten free, you know that finding food with “Gluten Free” on the label is imperative. I’ve known this for years but was recently reminded of the fact.
After MONTHS with zero issues, I was recently accidentally “glutened” twice within 10 days. The double whammy knocked me off my game for weeks.
My personal responses to being glutened include the following lovelies:
- Stomach pain – sometimes so bad I walked hunched over like the Humpback of Notre Dame for a few days. I belted out, “Sanctuary! Sanctuary!” at my cat once but she didn’t even blink. She’s grown accustomed to my ways.
- Inability to sleep or stay asleep if, by some miracle named Benadryl, I happen to arrive.
- Weight gain. You can imagine what back to back issues did for me.
- Pounding headaches – the kind Ibuprofen can’t touch.
- Itchy hives… a trick my body has only recently learned. Luckily for me, it has upped its game.
- Inability to concentrate. My mind becomes a two year old – running all over the place and staying nowhere for more than a minute and a half.
- Achy legs and arms. I can only describe the feeling as “flu like.”
- Ballooned belly. I don’t think we need to elaborate on this one.
- Zero appetite – usually not that big a deal for someone, but I happen to have low blood sugar and experience hypoglycemia when I haven’t eaten within what my body thinks is a reasonable time frame.
- Mouth or tongue sores.
- A general feeling of the “nasties.” Again, like the flu – with a few extra tricks up its sleeve.
My body reacts to gluten and wheat as though it’s been poisoned, Disney style. What basically happens is it hits panic mode and any combo of the above symptoms start coming at me left and right. Within the ten day double-poisoning last month, every single bell was rung. In spite of my misery, I couldn’t help being impressed.
One poisoning came from eating something off of a menu that I wasn’t sure was gluten free. We were at a Japanese restaurant where (like authentic Mexican restaurants) you have to do a lot of guess work. I guessed wrong.
A mere 10 days later, I took my chances (can you say DUMB??) with a bottle of BBQ sauce. While it didn’t actually say the words “Gluten Free” on the label, I scoured over the ingredients and felt it had to be safe.
It may sound like I’m making excuses, but I’m not entirely certain my brain had recovered from the first glutening. Unless you’ve experienced this, first hand, you cannot possibly imagine what it does to every corner of your body – brain included. That’s why it’s so important to have people around you who understand the gravity of the situation and can help look out for you.
Being glutened isn’t just about the miserable weeks it takes you to convince your body it isn’t under attack. It goes further than that. Each time you’re glutened, the damage is done. If you have intense allergic reactions to gluten or wheat, the reactions could actually be fatal.
In other words – don’t eat or drink anything unless it assures you that it’s gluten free. I will not let my guard down again. I have adopted a new code word and it’s DILIGENCE. I will be completely diligent about making sure everything I buy says Gluten Free on the label and I’ll be diligent about ordering food that I know is gluten free in restaurants. If you’re in the same wheatless and gluten free boat I’m in, I hope with all that’s within me that you’ll do the same.
Be diligent and never let your guard down.
- Think Outside of the Grocery Store Box. Wal-Mart, Meijer, Target, Big Lots, and TJ Maxx are some of my favorite places to find gluten free products. Most Wal-Marts even have “gluten free sections” where you can find products you can’t find anywhere else. What’s more, they’re adding a lot of gluten free products to their store brand and the ones I’ve tried have been great. Wal-Mart’s gluten free food is cheaper than just about anywhere else, too, which is a plus. Be sure to check throughout the store as well as the gluten free section. They have gluten free food spread out everywhere! TJ Maxx might be the most surprising store in the list, but they’ve been blowing me away with their gluten free cookies, candy, and snacks. Some of the best gluten free cookies I’ve ever bought have come from TJ Maxx. Target and Meijer are also wonderful places to check and Big Lots can knock you over with their savings on Bob’s Red Mill Gluten Free products.
- Cheat on Your Favorite Grocery Store.. I Won’t Tell. Check out other grocery stores in your town and even in surrounding towns. They may carry a gluten free product you’ve never even heard of. When travelling, be sure to check out grocery stores in other states as well. If you find something you fall in love with – stock up, then order online or, better yet, ask your grocery store to start selling your new find. The picture above is from a Schnucks store in a neighboring state (Indiana). They carry a lot of different gluten free items my own beloved Kroger (here in Kentucky) doesn’t, so it’s worth the occasional drive to stock up on a few rare gems.
- Check out My Reviews. I frequently write gluten free food reviews in an effort to let you know what’s the best of the best.
- Check out Farmer’s Markets and Local Stores. A few weeks ago, I was in a local Farmer’s Market and, literally, lost track of the number of “Gluten Free” labels I saw. Farmer’s Markets are all about wholesomeness, freshness, and food that is as unprocessed as possible, so it’s only natural that they’d want to offer gluten free food.
- Amazon, Amazon, Amazon. I can wear my favorite pajamas and fuzzy pink house-shoes to one of my favorite places to shop for gluten free food: Amazon. I use Amazon religiously for gift-buying, cookbooks, and kitchen gadgets and, with each order, I throw in a couple of gluten free foods to keep things delicious. There are countless brands of gluten free products on Amazon that you simply won’t find anywhere else. For example, I can find several Pamela’s Products Gluten Free foods, which I love, in stores but Amazon has Pamela’s Products I’ve never even heard of. The same is true of Katz – another favorite brand. OMG, their gluten free doughnuts!!! When shopping online, as is the case in stores, always look for the magic words: Gluten Free.
Final words to the wise – be diligent and read those labels. If it doesn’t say, “gluten free,” walk away. While you can do so without looking like Quasimodo…. Just sayin’. – Joi (“Joy”)