This afternoon, I found myself at another dinner where I got to watch all of the guests eat. A year ago, I’d have been embarrassed because it made others uncomfortable. Now it doesn’t bother me at all.
Well, it does. I’d love to be like them. To be able to grab a plate, fill it with favorites, and stuff my face right along with them.
Like a normal person…
But I can’t. And while most everyone is more understanding than they were in the beginning, I know they still don’t understand why I tend to be cautious to the extreme about cross-contamination.
According to Celiac Disease at About.com, it takes as little as 1/500 of a teaspoon of flour – or 1/233,333 of an average slice of bread – to cause a reaction in someone who is sensitive to gluten. Some people can have more than that – up to 1/8 of a teaspoon of flour, or 1/350th of a slice of bread, and they might be okay.
I don’t even have to be able to see it for gluten to affect me.
Within two hours of eating four ounces of steak at a favorite restaurant – after the cook scraped the grill to try and clean off the wheat-containing spice – my lungs felt like they were being crushed. When that happens, something as simple as trying to walk and breathe at the same time becomes a challenge.
The worst is usually over in three or four days, but it can take a couple of weeks before my lungs are completely back to normal.
And that, folks, is why I’m so paranoid about cross-contamination. I doubt you can even see 1/500 of a teaspoon of flour without a magnifying glass, but that’s all it takes to affect my health – in a very negative and miserable way.
That’s why I get irritable after telling someone for the millionth time to get their plate and silverware out before they touch a slice of bread or other gluten containing food. If they don’t, they contaminate anything they touch … including the cupboard door and drawer. That’s why if someone moves my glass or bottle of water after they’ve touched a regular sandwich or slice of pizza, I won’t touch it again.
When something that’s virtually invisible causes asthma-like symptoms so bad they scare me, I’m not taking a chance no matter who it offends, no matter how looney they think I am. I’d rather go hungry or thirsty than risk dealing with the after effects of my being careless.
Giving up gluten isn’t a choice I wanted to make. It’s a choice I was forced to make. I do my best to not inconvenience people because of it. I’ve never asked anyone to do anything special for me, and I never will. But I’m not going to apologize or be embarrassed because they think I’m a little over the top about it. I’m sorry, but I’m not going to risk my health to make everyone else comfortable.
That’s why I eat at home almost exclusively these days. And why, when I can’t avoid it, I bring foods I can eat to potlucks and picnics. I make sure whatever it is tastes normal for everyone else, but the main reason is so I can enjoy something that won’t make me sick.