Congratulations! You have now been officially diagnosed as a mutant! Honestly, I expected to find out I was a mutant because Professor X came to my house to offer me a place on the X-men, but I’ll place that dream into the same box as getting my letter to Hogwarts. If it was going to happen it would have happened before now.
Seriously though, Celiac Disease is a genetic mutation. There is a gene that pre-disposes us to have it. It exists in most of your family too, but it doesn’t always trigger. That’s the same as the mutant gene in the X-men comics. It’s passed genetically through families, but it only gets triggered occasionally. And just like the comic book mutant gene, the Celiac mutant gene get triggered by stress, usually in childhood.Unlike the comic book mutants, Celiacs don’t get awesome powers.
So, now what?
Well, since you don’t get to jet off to the X Mansion, you kind of have to make your house safe. For day one, you just need to clean. Don’t worry about getting rid of all of the food you can’t eat anymore, that is best for another day. Trust me when I say this, over the next two to three days you will feel so much better that you won’t even be tempted to eat it. No for today, you clean and read and eat.
There’s a lot of things you can read, and today you’ll be tempted to read them all. THIS IS A BAD IDEA! There’s a lot of misinformation out there that makes gluten sound like it’s a bacteria that can spread or breed. Yes, it makes you sick, but it’s not some sort of globulous monster that is out to get you. It’s a protein. It can’t multiply, because it’s not alive! It can spread, but only like crumbs spread when you cut bread or flour spreads when you scoop it.
One of the best descriptions that I heard, is that gluten spreads like cocoa powder. This isn’t the stuff that you hot cocoa with (that is cocoa mix) it’s the things that you add to cake or muffins that make them chocolate. If you’ve never worked with cocoa powder before. I made a couple of visual aids for you.
Cocoa power, like gluten, likes to cling to things. It’s not that it breeds, it’s that it spreads. So you can’t just sweep the crumbs off of your counter, you need to actually clean it. Run you cutting boards and silver wear through the dish washer. Basically, anything that could have been in contact with bread or flour should be cleaned. You need to really thing about all of the things that you use, even on a rare basis. Here’s a list to get you started, but ever household is different:
Cutting boards, cookie sheets, butter dish, toaster, oven racks (you can use the cleaning cycle of your oven), stove top, sink, dishrags, sponges, cleaning brushes, knifes, wooden spoons (just replace these), plates, silver wear, silver wear tray, cupboard surfaces and doors, drawers, floors, cookie jars, bread boxes, tupperwear.
You kind of get the jist at this point in time. Think about baking. Think about cooking. Think about making toast. You need to clean all of these things. We moved from a toaster to a toaster oven years ago, so there was a lot less cleaning to do (if you have a toaster I suggest making the switch now because you can’t save that toaster) and it’s much easier to have a mix gluten household with a toaster oven. Plus it is the best for re-heating pizza.
You’ll probably need to go the store and buy something to eat too, make sure you keep yourself fed. I know, food is now a frienemy, but you still need to intake calories. Keep it simple tonight. Don’t do anything too hard, just something that you can throw together and be relatively certain is gluten free. You’re going to have enough stress tonight, don’t worry about reading labels. Meat is, generally, gluten free. Potatoes are safe. Vegetables are safe, keep yourself to the outside of the store, skipping the bakery, and maybe the gluten free aisle, if your store has one. Tinkyada does a pretty good rice pasta that you can grab and make spaghetti, just avoid pre-made vodka sauce. Don’t go hog wild and buy out everything in the gluten free aisle. Just keep it simple.
The first gluten free meal that we made was gumbo. My husband, being the wonderful caring human being he is, wanted to make sure that I didn’t miss out on anything. I was lamenting that gumbo was going to be out, because roux is made out of flour. We grabbed some rice flour and he tried to make a gluten gumbo. It wasn’t a bad first attempt, and it did make me feel better about life. It was a bit of normalcy, and that was comforting. Cajun food is one of our 4 major food groups (Cajun, Mexican, Italian, and Ice Cream), so having that moment of normalcy was good. But that meal taught us one important lesson, we are going to need to learn to cook again. So don’t worry about making something amazing, just make something you can eat.
Now for the reading. I spent a lot of time going through Pinterest and found a lot of things that scared the crap out of me. Most if it made gluten sound like a monster. Here’s a couple of rational places you can go looking for information. Most of the gluten free magazines out there will be good too, pick up one or two.
University of Chicago Celiac Disease Center: They have great gluten free gift baskets for the newly diagnosed. Check out that program!
Celiac.com: the forums have a ton of great information, and they tend to call BS when something is untrue.
Gluten Free Dietitian: I went to a dietitian that suggested this website. Tricia Thompson has been on the leading edge of Celiac avocation, and almost everything that she’s worked with has become a leader in the regulation. You can trust what she says.
There’s also a couple of apps I suggest you download. They’re free, so if you don’t like them you won’t be out any money.
Find Me Gluten Free: This is like Yelp for the gluten free. There’s a lot of great reviews and, because it’s crowd sourced, you get personal information on dining and buying experiences. You can even sort for Celiac friendly restaurants. And, of course, if you add your experiences to the app or website, you will make the experience better.
Gluten Free Food Finder: You can use this to scan a bar code in the supermarket and find out if a produce is gluten free. It’s usually about 99.9% correct, but that .1% of the time is an error on the side of caution. Again, this is crowd sourced, so the more you contribute, the better the product gets. Plus, if you report an error it gives you a picture of a monkey. It’s enough to make you giggle.
So, there’s my road map to make you survive day one. Arm yourself with information. Clean your kitchen. Don’t try to be too normal. You have a whole new routine to learn, it’s time to explore!
Oh, and don’t feel bad if you get glutened every once in a while. You’re learning. Just think yourself like a toddler learning to walk, even if you fall down, it’ll hurt for a bit, but that too will pass. And hey, you can laugh about it later.