40th Birthday Reflections – The Gluten Free Fad

Today is my 40th Birthday.

Yay! I honestly never imagined myself so old! It’s also a decade since I started this gluten free journey. So I’m taking this opportunity to reflect. This doesn’t happen very often, (I mean public reflection, I reflect, I’m not just a pretty face ya know. 😉 I usually keep my deepest thoughts to myself), either on this blog or in real life, so if you’re new here, you get a rare peek into the emotions that fuel this blog. If you’re an old friend, I invite you to hang out for a bit. I know that you share my passion for awareness and advocacy, so I may just be echoing your own thoughts here.

Many more people are trying out gluten free and many more businesses are offering gluten free products. It seems like it might be a fad. But if this is a fad it will eventually end. I’m thinking, how can those of us who need to be gluten free make sure we come out on top at the end of it? How can we make sure we have choices when we shop and safe options when we dine out? I’m wondering, how can we make things better? How do we reach the end of the fad with a happier, healthier and safer world around us? Here are some actions that I’m going to take this 41st year. I invite you to join me.

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Educate with Compassion:

There are many more people trying gluten free, and realizing how much better they feel when they stop eating gluten. Not all of them are celiac, but some do have very real conditions that respond well to a gluten free diet. Or maybe it’s because, for them, a gluten free diet means turning away from packaged food towards more whole food choices. I don’t think this is a fad. I think this is many more people becoming aware of what we already know. Sick food makes people sick. And gluten makes some people very sick. The thing is, ALL of these new people are, well, new. And even though there’s lots of gluten free information out there, they may not have seen it, had time to learn it, or absorbed what it means for them. It took me several years before I realized that I was getting glutened by the crumbs in the peanut butter jar. I didn’t realize that I couldn’t just take my hamburger out of the bun and eat it. I just didn’t know. And I recognize this in others. They just don’t know. It could be that they’re like I was. They feel so bad that they still don’t realize how sick they’re getting from the hamburger bun crumbs.

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Those of us who have more experience need to reach out. We need to let people know about cross-contamination and the “atypical symptoms” associated with gluten. We can do this by joining groups like the gluten free group on Freedible. It’s a great mixture of very, very new and very experienced. It welcomes those who are gluten free for any reason. Because of its inclusive nature it’s a safe place to learn and share information. There’s no judging, just community. It would be great to have even more experienced voices contributing to the discussions and sharing information. It would also be great to have more new people asking questions and stimulating discussion. It really is a safe place to learn. By helping more people go gluten free safely, we can come to the end of this fad with a group of fellow advocates lobbying for safe gluten practices.

Buy Gluten Free Products made in a Dedicated Facility:

I’m going to start speaking with my wallet. There are a number of companies that want my money, but care nothing about my health. I need to start fighting back with my hard earned cash. If I want to ensure the safest gluten free standards, I can’t buy products that are made on shared equipment. The people who make them see us as a market and are trying to cash in on our choice to improve our health. WE are not a market. WE are people who need safe food. If a company wants to sell me gluten free food, they need to spend the time and money on a dedicated facility.

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There are so many long standing brands that make safe products on dedicated equipment. They test their ingredients coming in, and their products going out. They have policies in place that prevents gluten from even being present in the employee lunch room. You don’t even risk a crumb from under someone’s fingernail. Forget the FDA less that 20ppm ruling, these companies test for less that 10ppm. Buy from Kinnikinnick, Glutino, Uldi’s, Schar and others like them. They were here before the fad, and if we support them, they will be here well after it’s over. There are also a few large corporations that realize the seriousness of celiac disease and the ramifications of stamping something Gluten Free and have started making substitutes for your favorite brands in dedicated facilities. General Mills is coming out on top in this area with baking mixes from Betty Crocker and Chex cereal.

Patronize Dedicated Gluten Free Restaurants:

Why, WHY, do I go to restaurants, pay $$$ for a meal, and risk getting sick? Urg! I kick myself every time! It’s so stressful! I even had to leave a restaurant last week because of obvious gluten all over my food. There are a few non-dedicated restaurants that take food allergies and celiac disease very seriously (Chuck E Cheese’s being one), but not many. The best way to ensure your safety is to eat at a restaurant that is exclusively gluten free. Not one with a gluten free menu. Because many restaurants will print a menu and neglect to train their staff. Not one with good gluten free reviews. Because often, the people leaving the reviews are not those who medically need to be gluten free. Once I called a restaurant with great gluten free reviews and they told me they didn’t clean their cooking surface when they make gluten free crepes because the grill was so hot it burned off the gluten. Once, I went to a sushi restaurant, told them I was gluten free and they “forgot” to tell me there were tempura flakes in the roll I ordered. Once I watched as a cook took the bread off my plate and then the waitress told me the crumbs were from fries. Want more stories? Every time I go to a restaurant I have stress. Do you?

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You know, dining out doesn’t have to be the most stressful thing in our lives. There are actually quite a few dedicated gluten free restaurants where we can safely eat. But unless we support them, they’ll close. These are small Mom and Pop places run by people that often actually need to eat gluten free themselves. And they realize that we’d like to be able to eat in a restaurant. Yes, they’re in business to make money, but they’re a needed service and they deserve our support. They Are Us.

I’m Passionate About Dedicated Gluten Free:

So passionate that as a birthday present to myself, I’ve put together a directory of dedicated gluten free restaurants and bakeries. You can click here to see it. It is far from complete. Many of these businesses rely on local word of mouth and finding them on the internet has been hard work, but so worth it. One day, I’m going on the world’s longest road trip and I’m going to eat at each one. Maybe I’ll do that for my 50th. Check out the list, and if you have a restaurant in your area, stop in, even for a cookie. If you like, you can let them know you found their business through this site. Again, the list is not complete. If you know of a dedicated gluten free restaurant or bakery that I missed, please let me know the name of the restaurant and the city it’s in and I’ll update weekly. I’d love it to be an international list, so if you know of a dedicated gluten free restaurant in Italy or Vietnam, give me a shout. (if you want to be really helpful, leave the full address, business hours and link to their website.) If you own a gluten free restaurant, please contact me, my family travels quite a bit and if we’re in your area, we’d love to stop by and say hi!

Dedicated Gluten Free Restaurant and Bakery Directory from knowgluten.me A list of 100 gluten free restaurants and bakeries Follow Me on Pinterest

If you’ve made it all the way here:

Thanks! I hope your day is filled with joy and cookies. I hope you’ll join me on Freedible and have a peek at the Restaurant Directory. I’ll be enjoying my birthday by eating gluten free pizza and cake from our local gluten free restaurant, but I’ll be stopping in from time to time on social media. You can connect with me by clicking on a cupcake. :)

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Gluten Free sharing size chocolate mug cake made with Gluten Free Bisquick from knowgluten.me Follow Me on Pinterest

You can have a little birthday cake at your place too! Gluten Free Sharing Size Chocolate Mug Cake
{click the picture to get the recipe}

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