I Accidentally Ate Gluten, And Learn A Big Lesson

Me being a grump and feeling horrible the next day. Booo :(

Me being a grump and feeling horrible the next day. Booo 🙁

Last weekend Ash and I went to Byron Bay to celebrate our anniversary, which you can read all about here. If you read the post you will know that I accidentally ate gluten. Sad face.

They did tell me the food was vegan and gluten free, and I left it there and trusted them. I do think this was mostly my fault as I should have been more clear on the severity of my allergy/intolerance/reaction, and done a lot more follow up questions about if they include, oats, barley or any ingredients that have gluten etc.

I’m not sure exactly what it was on my plate that made me sick, and I don’t really want to analyse it and obsess over it. It happened, and I won’t eat there again.

But this was a really big lesson for me to stick to my guns and follow my intuition. I know I should have asked more questions, and probably found a safer place to eat.

When we are out with family and friends, I always refuse to eat, and I never eat at a restaurant unless its a raw one where I know its safe. This does make for some awkward situations, more so for other people than for me. And I do feel like other people at the table think I am being dramatic, over the top and do it for attention. Although, this could just be me and my insecurity about the situation. I am working on that too!

I have been wondering lately whether I should loosen up a bit and try ordering simple vegetable dishes when we are out. But this reminds me exactly why I don’t do that, and that I really need to follow my gut (no pun intended) and be even more careful.

Do I wish I could eat at restaurants like a normal person? Yep, absolutely!

Is it worth being so sick I need to be in bed for 2 days and will still be feeling the ramifications weeks (or months) later? Hell no!

And thats the part people don’t see. Which is exactly why I can’t let other people decide what’s okay for me.

Having celiac, or any food allergy is a life long lesson in being strong, both in will to not eat the food, and with other people when they get uncomfortable and pushy. Remember, it is their fear of being different that makes them not deal with your situation well, and nothing to do with you as a person. Embrace being different! It’s the only choice any of us has. There is no normal. So go with it, and be a bit weird. I think its fun to be the one who chugs that ‘weird green stuff’ every day!

All of that said, my really close family members who I spend a lot of time with completely get it. They respect it when I say no, and they no longer try and force the situation to be what makes them comfortable. I think this has a lot to do with how I approached it. When they first found out about the celiac, they would always say how bad they felt that I wasn’t eating and suggest things for me to eat, but I would immediately say ‘it’s totally okay, I’m fine with it, don’t worry about me’.

Behind the scenes it was a bit upsetting, I did feel left out and wasn’t totally okay with. But letting them feel sorry for me would have only made it worse. Now I am fine with it, and it hardly gets mentioned.

And Ash has been the one who has really helped me get through the transition. He knows I hate it when anyone makes a big deal about it (even him), so he just does what he can to make it easy for me, defends me when people get freaked out about it, and listens to me whinge behind closed doors about feeling left out. What a champ.

Some family members and friends who I don’t spend as much time with still make a big deal out of it and bring lots of attention to the fact that I’m not eating, and they probably always will. Some do it out of love and some do it because it makes them really uncomfortable.

Some have even stopped inviting us over for dinner – which is fine and I don’t let anyone cook for me anyway. I said yes a few times, got sick every time and learn the hard way that its just not gonna happen. I’m okay with sitting there and not eating, but sadly other people usually aren’t and its just too uncomfortable for them, which results in Ash and I not being invited over at all and seeing less of those people. Which is fine – the only persons attitude and behaviour you can control is your own.

So I choose to not make a big deal out of it, be extremely grateful for those who accept me as I am, and remember that those who are uncomfortable with it are coming from a place of fear and I send them love.


How do you deal with people being uncomfortable with your food allergies/intolerances? Do you have some awesome supportive people who help you get through it? Give us some tips!

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19 comments on “I Accidentally Ate Gluten, And Learn A Big Lesson

  1. Shae,
    I have been dealing with the issue of eating out as well. I have been told that food is gluten-free and vegan NUMEROUS times, and have still gotten sick. On the flip side, there are some restaurants and servers that really care about food allergies. But mostly, in my experience, a lot of servers and restaurants don’t care. It sucks to not be able to go out to a bunch of different restaurants but I can tell you this: I’m healthier, I’m safer (i.e. not sick), I’m saving money, and chances are, I’m happier. I will eat out once in a while, but only at places I am 100% sure are GF. I will ask numerous questions before even sitting down at a restaurant. I will call ahead, speak to the head chef, make a reservation, etc. But I try to avoid eating out at all costs. I have been sick so many times just from careless restaurants that it’s not worth it to me unless I am absolutely certain that they understand the severity of my allergies.

    My boyfriend and family are great about making sure I am safe. Even when I ask questions, my boyfriend will usually ask a few more just to be sure. He actually doesn’t even like going out anymore because he has seen me get sick so many times. I think having this support system as a Celiac is crucial. It really sucks that we can’t go out like everyone else, but that’s just the way it is. I’m so sorry you got sick, and I totally understand, and it sucks. I hope you get to feeling better soon. Thank you so much for posting this. I just celebrated my three years of being GF/DF (after being Celiac 18 years without my knowledge) so its posts like these that really make me feel strong. Best wishes,


    • Hi Shelley, Yep absolutely agree! Sadly a lot of the time I try not to ask to many questions because of the attitude/vibe I get from the server. Your right its so important to have support and people who have your back, it makes you comfortable enough to go ahead and ask a bazzilion questions or just say nope this restaurant isn’t safe enough for me. Happy GF Anniversary! So glad you liked the post – thanks for the support! x

  2. I love your posts. Eating gluten free foods is all new to me although I can tolerate gluten. I enjoy all of your posts and feel fortunate I came upon your blog when I did. I have tried a few of your shared recipes and was pleasantly surprised at how thoughtfully put together they are as well as how tasty they are. Your trip to Byron Bay was a delightful read. Thank you for all of your posts and in particular your most recent poignant post.

  3. Eating out for me has become creative. When the menu arrives at the table I look at every selection to see how it is made. Then I create a salad out of many of the raw components of numerous dishes. Dressing is always oil and vinegar to be free of flour or animal ingredients. I ask for a baked potato on the side with salsa.

  4. I love your attitude, you are a wise woman! My family and friends also got very uncomfortable years ago when I became vegetarian and later vegan. THEY were uncomfortable, not me. I, like you, love being the weird girl who chugs down a green drink everyday. I always think if I stay on this path of pursuing good health, will there be a noticable difference in how I look at 60 compared to how they look at 60, and how many meds they are on vs. my being med free? Time will tell.

    • Aw thank you Michelle! Yep you gotta embrace being the weird one! Yeah absolutely. I think if approach it the right way, eventually most of those uncomfortable people will be turning to you in the next 20 years when health issues start to pop up! It’s sad, but no one really values their health until its slipping away from them. x

  5. … Hi Shae … i got a bit worried when i didn’t hear from you for some time … very pleased your back … read about your trip to Byron Bay & wow what a place … glad you treated your selves to this piece of heaven & happy anniversary … i read up a bit on celiac to educate myself … i’m sad that you have that challenge in your life & that others have it too … that is why i wrote it with a small “c” … for you to have victory over it & i embrace you for standing strong & proud of who & what you are … weird no … different yes … about people who think that you seek attention or are dramatic … some do think so & some are on your side … i believe that the people who truly love you will go out of their way to cook for you the food that you love … the food that is safe & healthy for you … invite you over & then sit down together with you & eat that same food … & only the ones who love you see your suffering … understand it fully & respect it … that to me is true friendship & true love … & millions of thanks To God that you already have that Blessing … the ones who don’t care & stopped inviting you … good riddance … thank you celiac … for you have shown me the true from the false … you’re such a gentle soul … so yes … love to those who are not aware … & love & peace to you my friend … God Bless you …

    • Hi Dina, thank you so much for your lovely comment! Yes you really need to be appreciative for the amazing people in your life you do understand and care :). x

      • … God Keep you In His Love & In His Light always … love & peace to you … your loved ones & the whole world Shae … God Bless …

  6. I have the same problem.
    My husband and I are both intolerant to gluten, and when he accidentally eats it he gets sick for a few days. Me no, but I get eczema on my hands, quite long to heal.
    We absolutely hate restaurants and we go there only when we are with company or when we cannot avoid it (husband’s business trips). Going to a restaurant is mostly a stressful experience, we are on guard all the time, we are cross with ourselves when we realise we should have asked some more questions and on the top we have to pay a bill for something we would have gladly avoided.
    The only restaurants we trust (to a certain extent, of course) are some buffet restaurants that clearly label their food (gf, df, vegan, etc) and list all ingredients in a dish.

    • Oh thats hard with both of you being intolerant, but thats a whole other level of support you have for each other. Yep I find it a stressful experience when I choose to eat. So most of the time I don’t so I can just enjoy the company we are with! Hmm I’ve never thought of buffets as safe, rather the opposite, but you do make a good point. I’ll keep that in mind – thanks for the tip!

      • Well, we had a few good experiences with this specific sort of buffet, meaning those listing diet restrictions (gf, vegan, etc) AND the list of ingredients.
        We assume that the restaurant has made some research about diet restrictions and they also normally advertise it on their website.
        We trust it more than a simple conversation with the waiter who may not be very conversant with the food restrictions rules. It’s also helpful in case of a language barrier (that happens quite often).
        Normally there also signs instructing people to use the correct spoon for each dish and, if it’s done correctly, allergy friendly foods tend to be in the background rather than in the front, to prevent contamination from accidental food spilling.
        Having a list of all ingredients means that the restaurant makes most of the food in house and they do not use ready made sauces, etc. so the food is also healthier.
        We also like this level of detail, because you can also choose based on your preference so you do not risk to get something you do not like.

        • Yeah it would be so helpful to have all of the ingredients written down in front of you so you can decide, rather than just having a waiter go ask the chef and relay that to you – so much room for error there. I guess I haven’t been to enough buffets to know they do this! Thats really good to know though, especially for travelling – and buffets would make it easier on cruises as well.

  7. So sorry that eating out is so stressful, but I understand it. I, fortunatly, do not have the alergy issues, but am vegetarian. My mother, on the other hand, is gluten intolerant, along with many other food alergies, so it’s tough, even if the food is labeled ‘GF/DF’. She, also, prefers to go vegetarian, but dosn’t many times due to convenience issues with the GF need. Yes, restuarants are tough! As for going to others house for dinners, etc. I’ve found the same reluctance in offering GF or vegetarian options. They always mention I could pick stuff out and soo don’t get it at all. To resolve this, I always bring a dish, and if my mother is along (like holiday dinners with family, etc.), I make sure the dish is GF. This way, no one is uncomfortable, I know we both have something we both can eat and not worry about how anything else is made. It’s become a norm that I always bring something for the table. I make enough so others can share in it, in hopes that they will see that it actually tastes desireable and not odd/weird/bland, as they think it will. Luckily, the GF/DF world is not becoming such an oddity. It’s becoming more known and available, but there is still alot of educating to be done. I’m grateful to have found your blog, as it’s given my mother so many more options. She lives in a small town that doesn’t get GF at all; I live in a more urban area and have more options to bring to her when I visit her. Thank you and keep being a cruisader–your info is helping others!

  8. BRING YOUR OWN FOOD! (and if celiac, your own utensils and dish!). I would never trust anything but a fully gf dedicated restaurant to eat out — I don’t care how much gf food prep training the staff gets, if gluten food is present the possibilities for cross contamination are too great. All it takes is a gluten plate on the same pass to blow a bread crumb into your gf salad, or a server to pick up your plate after filling a bread basket to make you ill for days. Call ahead and explain that your spouse/mother/friend loves the restaurant, but your food sensitivities make you such a pain that you could never expect anyone to manage them (really — use humor aimed at yourself, take the blame for your supposedly ridiculous pickiness — they are thinking that anyway), so could you bring an inconspicous dish of your own food to keep your partner company while he/she enjoys the wonderful restaurant? Bring your own utensils or antiseptic wash (flour sticks), place your dish from home in their possibly contaminated dish — then tip big.
    Buffets — are you kidding? As a long-time vegan I learned the dangers of the switched spoon and the dropped-food reachover; as a celiac I might as well just eat a piece of bread. Same goes for deli cases, unless the entire facility is gf.

    Going to someone’s home — same deal. When you get the invitation (do not wait until the night before!), explain you would love to join them, but you would never ask your friend to maneuver around your crazy sensitivities…. Depending on the formality of the meal (and your cooking skill), offer to bring a salad or veg course for everyone (setting your uncontaminated dish aside first) or just for yourself. Again. laugh at your own “ocd” for bringing your own utensils, but you do not wish to put your host out. Most importantly, do not talk about your food all night! Just mention that you can’t eat some of the ingredients so you are having “a plain salad” (or whatever), but you didn’t want to miss the party. Then change the subject — this is not your party, so do not dominate the events with your health problems. If someone persists with questions about his son’s excema or wants to dispute the validity of celiac, just smile and say no one wants to talk about digestive issues at a dinner party (ha, ha), but if the person is really interested, you would be happy to explain it another time. And did you see the latest “Mad Men”/ Cubs game/ Giselle production?

  9. Just wanted to put my two cents in as a chef in a fine dining restaurant (personally both gluten and dairy free, many vegan friends)….I suppose I would just like to say that chefs who care are out there. It is frustrating to find so many restaurants that are careless (read: lazy and ignorant), but please note that the tide is turning.

    When a guest has an allergy in my dining room, I go to the table personally. If there is not something already on the menu that suits their needs AND their tastes, we discuss their preferences, their restrictions, and we create something for them.

    I recently took a position at a much larger restaurant, with an inn attached. Since my arrival I have been personally working with both the service staff and the kitchen team on changing their attitude (the biggest issue truly) when it comes to dietary restrictions and customers. My message is that someone with a special need is not a negative situation, but that the need gives the server an opportunity to really show some respect and great hospitality to the customer. So far we have seen great success, though it is a work in progress.

    Just wanted you to know that we, as in chefs who care, are out there.

    • Hi Sarah, thats really good to know and I’m so glad you took the time to post this. All it takes is a few people who really care to effect change. And once other restaurants see that it is worth investing time into, they will all start paying attention. Great work Sarah, its nice to know there are people like you out there who do care! 🙂

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