Irreverent solutions to your real life allergy & sensitivity dramas
| Bad Seed |
I’m gluten sensitive and I just found out the hard way that flax bothers me, too. Recently, I was invited to a party where the hostess planned to serve lasagna, so I gave her my trusted brand of gluten-free and flax-free noodles. For whatever reason, she used another gluten-free brand instead. She didn’t tell me about this until after I arrived. I couldn’t just turn around and leave, so I politely ate what she made. It didn’t take my body long to tell me that her noodles contained flax. Later, I researched her brand and, sure enough, there was flax in them. What should I have done?
There isn’t a food out there that can’t prompt an allergy or sensitivity but it somehow feels unfair that you’re reacting to flax. This super seed is commonly used to pump up the nutrition of gluten-free products, which makes it challenging to avoid. Heck, I have three different kinds of flax in my cupboard right now!
The good news is that you’re used to reading labels and you know how to keep yourself safe when grocery shopping. The bad news is, of course, well-meaning friends can make you sick serving you “safe” gluten-free food. But you know this already.
What you don’t know is how to deal with a double whammy when you’re dining out. In the case of your friend who was kind enough to make gluten-free lasagna, you’ll either have to be more adamant in the future or risk getting sick again. In my opinion, it would have been wise to ask to see the pasta box once you arrived and she mentioned she’d used other noodles. But still, it would have seemed awkward and ungracious to refuse to eat the meal she’d prepared with you in mind.
As anyone with food allergies and sensitivities knows, it’s much better to experience a moment of awkwardness than days or weeks of illness. Personally, I find it more awkward to find a bathroom before I poop my pants than to explain to a friend that I can’t eat her delicious-smelling fried chicken. Fried chicken that, yes, had a coating of gluten-free flour but was fried in the same pan as her beer-battered fries.
Bottom line: You’ve got to explain to friends, waiters, caterers or whomever that you need to know the exact ingredients of what they’re serving you.
And just so you’re completely clear, please see a doctor to make sure you know exactly what allergens and sensitivities you’re dealing with and if there’s anything else that would put you on high alert. You want to know that it’s flax that’s bugging you, not something else that usually travels with flax. Quinoa, I’m looking at you.
| No Laughing Matter |
What is the proper response to a joke about my gluten and dairy sensitivities? It feels like everyone is a comedian these days and I’m the butt of the joke. I don’t want to be a whiny “food allergy” person but sometimes it just really gets me down. What would you do?
Have you been watching late night talk shows again? I thought we agreed to stop doing that after the great attacks of ’15. Let’s face it, gluten is an easy joke and dairy goes along for the ride because it’s a convenient segue to talking about gas.
I’m guessing you are, in fact, referring to people who think they are funny vs. people who get paid to be funny. Some of the former may even be your friends—or perhaps used to be your friends. I absolutely have a relative or two who thinks gluten jokes are hilarious and that’s probably because I laugh even while plotting my revenge. You’ll get yours, Aunt Tina. You’ll get yours.
While I’m very tempted to tell you to fight fire with fire, we’re not in 8th grade anymore. As adults, we should take the high road and, dare I say, turn the other cheek? I find it’s helpful to remind myself that anyone who is making fun of a disease or disorder probably also kicks puppies. They probably don’t think about the pain they cause by poking fun at your physical ailments. They probably aren’t targeting you at all; they’re just insensitive jerks. In other words, people you never need to be around ever again. So stop being around them.
With that said, I think you can tell the difference between someone who thinks a joke is funny and someone who thinks causing you pain is funny. For the former who are, like, “But you’re my gluten-free, dairy-free friend. I saved this joke for you,” feel free to smile and pat their cute little heads. They only want to make you chuckle and may not understand that physical pain after eating isn’t something you want to chuckle about.
I like to fantasize about the day when gluten jokes get old. I do believe that day will come and then we will have sympathy for the next group of victims. I’m thinking it’s going to be the stevia people.