I used to be horrified when a gastroenterologist didn’t know something about celiac disease but now I look forward to the opportunity to spread a little knowledge. After all, no one can know everything.
Yesterday, during my quarterly check-in with my newest gastroenterologist, he asked “how gluten free is your diet, really?”
I told him I never “cheat” and “give in” to just a bite of something glutinous. I keep a strictly GF home. NO gluten is allowed in the house or in or on anyone who lives here.
My dear, wonderful husband, who doesn’t have a problem with gluten, went gluten free for me after just one date. He has no problem with our keeping a GF house and he never complains about missing gluten. It’s so refreshing after previous boyfriends insisted on either defiantly eating gluten in front of me or “testing” me by secretly eating something glutinous before coming over and then seeing if I really got sick from glutinous kisses or unwashed hands leaving gluten on the faucet. I always got sick. And they all got the boot.
Even the cats are gluten free, which brings me to the education moment during this morning’s visit. I told the doctor I’m as gluten free as I can be. I run into problems at work meetings where others are eating gluten near me or where no one washes down the table in the break room or the conference room. He nodded, understanding, and said, “Yeah, that’s a problem.”
And then I said, “And over the holidays I was around family and the dogs are awesome but they eat gluten and then slobber all over me.”
The doctor looked surprised and said, “I hadn’t thought of that.”
Bingo! Being completely gluten free requires me to think long and hard about gluten. As a result, I’ve recently decided there are four kinds of gluten hazards for people like me with celiac disease.
First, there’s naked gluten (NG). It’s right there, exposed, nothing to hide demanding to be seen and devoured. It’s the first or second ingredient for every loaf of bread, bowl of pasta, box of cold cereal, and bucket of fried chicken at your favorite grocery store. It’s the stuff you throw away first when you’re newly diagnosed because it says right on the label it contains wheat, barley, rye, triticale, semolina, teff, non-GF oats, or something made from those products.
We then have stealth gluten (SG). That’s the stuff hiding in products that don’t contain glutinous ingredients but are processed in the same facility as and even on the same lines as products that contain gluten. Scan their ingredient list and they seem safe so you try it and next thing you know, you’re praying to the porcelain gods and unable to walk for a week. Contact the manufacturer and they say something like, “current manufacturing practices are such that the product cannot be called gluten free” or “the product contains no gluten ingredients but blah blah blah blah.” If there’s a long explanation, it usually means the product has stealth gluten.
We also have Houdini gluten (HG): the gluten that’s disappeared behind a smokescreen name like phytosphingosine. It sounds like something other than something that might have gluten in it but it does, in fact, have gluten in it. It happens a lot in cosmetics and other personal care products. Phytosphingosine, for example, is a lipid naturally occuring in the body. It’s important for a lot of good stuff for the skin (you can read about it here with a more scientific discussion here) but what’s used in cosmetics is synthetic and derived from barley or sometimes wheat. Check it out at Gluten Free for Dummies.
And then there’s the most challenging one of all: other people’s gluten or OPG. If you eat a normal, made from wheat, all-you-can-eat glutinous donut and then shake my hand, I now have your gluten all over my hands and if I don’t immediately scrub my hands to get it off, it’s going to go wherever I touch and on whatever I hold. Glutened by OPG. Thanks.
If you’re fond of talking while your mouth full and I’m sitting across from you at breakfast, chances are you’re going to spit your breakfast biscuit at me and onto my food, contaminating it with OPG (and lord knows what else). Thanks.
If you eat a sandwich and then kiss my cheek, I’m going to get sick because that gluten now is on my face and unless I go scrub my face and then my hands, that smear’s staying on my cheek where I might absentmindedly touch it and then touch my mouth or touch something I put in my mouth. Thanks for the OPG.
And if you eat a scone with your double swirl, half caf, pumpkin spice, mocha loca chocochino grande while sitting at that cute table in the corner of the fern bar and then leave without cleaning the table, there’s no way I’m sitting at your table because those crumbs are going to crawl all over my cup and napkin and sleeves and I might as well have been sitting in your lap, letting you shower me with OPG. Thanks.
I’ll no longer grin and bear OPG. My rule: if it’s gluten and it goes into your mouth or on your hands, don’t touch me until you’ve washed, brushed, flossed, and deflaked. Same goes for your pet and then some. Pets lick their own fur so even if Fifi ate four hours ago, she probably slicked that tongue along her back or paw or leg so if I touch her, I’ve got whatever her tongue left behind now on my petting hand.
So, I love you all, but it is flu season and while I can use hand sanitizer to kill the germs slapped into my palm, there’s no magic OPG sanitizer on the market right now and I don’t want to OPG so I’m keeping a safe distance. Thanks!
How do you deal with OPG?
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