Irreverent solutions to your real life allergy & sensitivity dramas.
TRUTH ON THE INTERNET
I’m a newly diagnosed celiac and am getting really confused. I’ve been lurking on some celiac forums and I’m hearing a lot of conflicting information like whether or not something has gluten. It seems like I have to double-check everything I hear. It’s so hard to make sure I’m doing everything right and staying gluten-free. How can I be certain I’m not getting bad info? Help!
Dear Fake News,
Welcome to the club—the I-Was-Just-Diagnosed-with-Celiac-and-I’m-Confused-by-Random-Comments-on-the-Internet Club. It’s a blessing and a curse to be living in a time when so much information is so easily accessible. The Internet can be a lifesaver when the information is correct and applicable to your situation and it can be the bane of your existence when people post out of ignorance or lie to your face about gluten. Use the Internet when you’re in need of quick information—just use it with caution.
Way back when I was in journalism school, they always told us when we heard something, check it out. No matter who gives you information, check it out. It may be your new online BFF who gave you the most amazing gluten-free chocolate chip cookie recipe; that same BFF may be misinformed about the absence (or presence) of gluten in whatever. Before you chow down (or eliminate something from your diet), do your own research by checking reliable sources.
Reliable sources include this magazine (with researched articles and professional contributors), nonprofit celiac organizations such as the Celiac Disease Foundation (celiac.org) or Beyond Celiac (beyondceliac.org) and nationally respected celiac medical centers such as The University of Chicago Celiac Disease Center (cureceliacdisease.org) or the Celiac Disease Center at Columbia University (celiacdiseasecenter.columbia.edu).
You can tell you’re reading researched information by looking at who is being quoted or sourced. If the source is a medical professional with a solid reputation, a national medical board or a peer-reviewed scientific or medical journal, you can trust that information. If, however, the person telling you to avoid water is selling a non-water beverage or getting sponsorship from a company that sells something, it’s a good idea to question what that person is saying.
Here are two easy ways to see if the news you’re getting is legit:
▶ Google It
If someone swears that the moon is made of Swiss cheese (or gluten is hiding in black coffee), Google that statement and see what else comes up. If it’s information that has been repeated over and over and with authority, drill down to find the source and if it is researched. If you don’t find any other news articles about the topic, or the ones you find say, “Here’s a ridiculous claim,” you can assume it’s bad information. Or at least it’s not verified at this time.
▶ Go Straight to the Source
If you haven’t already, make an appointment with a dietitian/nutritionist who is knowledgeable about celiac and the gluten-free diet. These are the people who study food, diet and adverse reactions to gluten for a living. Your dietitian/nutritionist will also know where gluten is (and is not) and can clear up any misconceptions you may be finding on the Internet. They know their stuff and will also be able to guide you to create a healthy lifestyle now that you’re eliminating gluten.
Being a part of the online gluten-free community can be incredibly helpful when you’re newly diagnosed and looking to connect with people in the same boat. So go out there and make GFFs! Just remember: When you hear something that sounds suspicious, always check it out.
Celiac Comes Of Age
My granddaughter sent me your magazine since my doctor told me I have celiac disease and to stop eating gluten. I’ve been reading it a lot and while it’s very interesting, I can’t help but think I’ve been misdiagnosed. It’s true I feel better since cutting gluten out of my diet—but I’m in my 70s! I find it hard to believe I would just now be unable to eat something I’ve been enjoying my entire life. Is it possible to develop a gluten problem when I’m this old?
An Old Dog Not Wanting to Learn New Tricks
Dear Old Dog,
In a word: Yes. While we may think we’re too old to wear a mini-skirt, dye our hair pink or develop celiac disease or a food allergy, none of these things is actually true. If you don’t believe me, take a walk around Hollywood Boulevard on a Saturday afternoon.
If you find yourself chatting with people at a gluten-free expo, at a celiac meet-up or even in your own neighborhood, you will find individuals of all ages with food issues. I was diagnosed with celiac disease in my 30s. I know someone diagnosed as an infant and someone else diagnosed in his 70s.
You never know when the symptoms will hit you. It can happen at any time and at any age. In fact, well-known celiac expert Stefano Guandalini, MD, wrote in a paper posted on Medscape in November 2018: “Celiac disease can occur at any stage in life; a diagnosis is not unusual in people older than 60 years.”
Given the fact that food sensitivities, celiac disease and certain allergies can take a long time to be diagnosed, you may have been living with this gluten problem for years without knowing it. The good news is that you feel better without the gluten. The bad news is you can no longer eat it. Which is why you’re reading this magazine—so we can help you out.
As for the “learning new tricks” part of this equation, you can do this! Pick up a gluten-free cookbook or gluten-free guidebook (maybe even one written by me or one of our amazing editors or contributors) and learn to navigate the gluten-free world sooner rather than later. Believe me, it’s pretty wonderful to feel better just by tweaking your diet. And this is the best time ever to go gluten-free. There’s more help out there, more awareness and more gluten-free products available in grocery stores and online than ever before. You’ll be an expert before your next visit from that incredibly thoughtful granddaughter of yours!
April Peveteaux is author of Gluten Is My B*tch: Rants, Recipes and Ridiculousness for the Gluten-Free (Stewart, Tabori & Chang), The Gluten Free Cheat Sheet (Penguin Group) and Bake Sales Are My B*tch (Rodale).