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10 Gluten Risks We Just Have To Suck Up

10 Gluten Risks We Just Have To Suck Up

We’re out there in the world. We’re mixing. And mingling!

We shop for food, go to work, ride the train, take a cab. Sometimes, we even go out to dinner. Or to lunch with a coworker. And there’s gluten, like, everywhere. So there are risks everywhere. Here are the ones we just can’t avoid:

1. The stuff left over from other shoppers on the supermarket checkout conveyer belt thingie. Round and round it goes.

2. Restaurant utensils. Unless you can actually see something on that fork. Then it goes back.

3. Door handles.

4. Someone else’s little kid’s sticky gluten fingers. And he’s coming right at me.

5. Curious shoppers with sticky gluten fingers who fondle gluten-free foods on the shelf.

6. Crumbs on the floor that we end up walking on and get stuck in our shoes and oh my goodness I really would rather not think about maybe tracking it inside my house. Or my nemesis: Play-Doh.

7. Greetings with cheek-to-gluten-eating-cheek kisses.

8. Library books (maybe it’s just me with this one, but don’t people eat and read and what are those random stains on page 237 except don’t tell me I don’t want to know okay tell me no wait don’t).

9. Coffee house coffee from servers (baristas!) who just handed the guy before us a bagel. Did he really need that bagel? Shouldn’t he be eating a real breakfast at home in his own gluten-eating house?

10. Leaving the house.

What are you willing to risk?


P.S. For when you want to play it safe and eat at home, pick up a copy of My Cookbook! It has all your favorite comfort foods, made safely gluten-free.


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  • Betty-Gayle Dove

    Thank you Nicole for not only providing us with excellent recipes, but for sharing other important information and reminders as well. I have been sharing links with friends, both who have Celiac and those that their Doctors are recommending to go gluten free for various medical reasons. Keep up the good work, it is much appreciated!!! (((HUGS)))

  • Ha, this blog post came just in time to feed my anxiety at my first upcoming vacation since being diagnosed as celiac! :) So much great informatiin in your blog and cookbook. Thanks for sharing!

  • Missy

    And here is another one: The person cutting deli meat at the grocery store who has also been tending the chicken fryer and has flour all over her apron. I always ask her to either take off her apron and change her gloves or get someone else to cut my meat..they look at me like I have two heads..

    • Stephanie

      I ALWAYS say “they look at me like I have two heads!” It is awful trying to sound like I am not a nut case when I ask people to change gloves, aprons, etc….
      After 4 1/2 years since my Celiac diagnosis – I finally decided that I have to live as well. I don’t eat out often but we like to and I try to be overly cautious and then enjoy my meal (which never looks as good as my gluten eating family). It’s hard. It’s awful actually. But it’s my life. Thanks for the post.

    • Laura

      Several people in GF blogs have had problems with cross contamination with deli meat, me included. My local grocery store has a dietician on staff and she doesn’t recommend anything from the deli or fresh meat counters because the risks are high. I buy whole and slice myself.

    • daisy

      I just get the prepackaged Applegate Farms Organics sliced deli meat, have never experienced a problem. One of my grocery stores also has prepackaged (i.e. from the factory) Boars Head sliced meats. Both are marked gluten and casein free. But I have no hesitation in asking people to change their gloves. I just smile and say thank you, they are usually very accomodating!

    • I buy whole and slice myself too! OR get the Hormel sliced meat. Delis are scary.

    • Nancy

      I use Hormel Natural choice that is pre=packaged and is a little box. Many preservative free meats have sea salt which is a huge problem for me. Some of the stores have air chilled organic chicken (to be cooked) which I like a lot. Yep, I cook everything from scratch at home.

  • kj

    I’m willing to take kisses from my hubby, who is not GF, and may have just eaten a brat and drank some beer. :)

    • Anonymous

      Yeah, my husband and I tease that he is cross contaminating me when we kiss :)

    • Lisa

      My husband spent a week glutenizing me by kissing me, and it took 3 whole weeks before I was over it! Never again…

  • Jennifer S.

    Since I am not a true celiac and am just avoiding gluten for health reasons, many of these items that you listed are new to me. I touch gluten items (for my family, etc…) and then get my GF items at the grocery store. Never ever thought about this. It’s cool, we are just feeding my obsession with antibacterial hand wipes. Rock on! :)

    • Claire

      I’ve wiped library books – for real. I love disinfectant wipes. I am not a celiac either but will be more careful at the grocery store :)

      • bookladyDavina

        I’m a librarian (at least some times I am..) and yes.. handling books all day sometimes worries me.. we can’t wipe everything down when it comes in, and sometimes you find odd bits of cookies or crackers in the book drops.. i wash my hands a lot at work when I’m there

        • I knew it!!
          xoxo Nicole

          • bookladyDavina

            worst offenders are the children’s books.. but that’s cuz their bags tend to be full of their quiet time snacks and all.. but it does then contaminate all the books in the drop that day, and maybe for days afterwards. I try not to think about it too much when reading books from the library myself, or i’d be wearing gloves all the time.. lol, but yes, it does happen

  • Joleen

    So nice to know I am not alone in these thoughts! The checkout belt gives me shivers! I’m not the Celiac, my 7 year old is, but our home is GF. I feel I am thinking ahead for her, thats how I justify it. I will pass on my fears & crazy thoughts to her one day as the “Wise One”.

    • Laura

      I laughed out loud on that one because I have actually changed lanes when seeing white powdery stuff on the belt, lol. And, I carry packaged silverware with me in case theirs doesn’t look good enough. When with gluten eaters, I always begin to question whether I’m sane. I’m so happy other people silently freak about the same things. :-)

  • Pamela

    Oh my goodness, this is so on point for what I am feeling right now! Thank you!

  • Donna

    I think this is overkill. People become so obsessed with germs and other invisible dangers. Don’t you wash you hands? That’s the best protection. I live with a gluten eating person and I have celiac disease. He has his stash on a lower shelf so it won’t drop crumbs on mine and he cleans up his corner where he has his own cutting board. Otherwise, we have a gluten free kitchen. I do avoid kissing guests. I avoid eating out except for social occasions. Use some reason but don’t get crazy.

    • Laura

      I appreciate your comments but I have gotten sick from some of the above. After four days of diarrhea, I am cautious. It’s my choice as is your choice to be more relaxed in how you approach things. Each of us is different and handles things differently based upon our own life experiences. :-)

      • Kelly

        Both of you sound like my husband and myself. My mother in law who is no longer with us had celiac and was very relaxed about it, always had a digestive issue or something and she was OK with it. Now my 3 year old son recently diagnosed this year is likely celiac and I am so careful. My husband keeps saying its overkill and I sit there and see my little guy suffer after he’s had something that could have been contaminated with days of diarrhea. He’s little for his age and 3 days of diarrhea has him losing weight. I would so love to be more relaxed about it but it seems that’s not a luxury I can afford. I travel with a bag of things for him including sanitizing wipes for surfaces he touches. People look at me like I’m crazy but when I’m on top of it he’s happier and healthier so I’m fine with looking like the crazy lady. And lets not forget the “comforting words” I get from folks like “you’re taking this too far” and “I bet he’d be just fine with a piece of bread once in a while” and maybe one day he will be. So far he’s not formally celiac but gluten makes him very sick (gluten intolerant?) so I stay away from it at all cost.

        • Kelly, I so so so relate to everything you said. What you just described is what I have in the back of my mind whenever I post these “editorials” on the blog (have you read my post about “Keep Your Hands Off My Gluten-Free Kid“?). After almost 8 years of feeding my son gluten-free (which began after an infancy in which he nearly died), I am completely and totally impervious to those “comforting” words from both strangers and family alike. I will keep my son safe, and that means as close to 0 ppm in his life as possible. Call me crazy. Call me whatever you like. Oh, and my husband didn’t “get it” at first, and it was really lonely. :( You’re not alone, though. I’m with you, 100%.
          xoxo xo (extra xo) Nicole

  • Brian Haber

    Unless there is a severe reaction to gluten, the stress of everyday practical living may be as harmful to our psychies and bodies ,long term, as the gluten itself.

    • Jackie

      I agree that stressing out about what you may touch or by touched by is more than necessary, and can cause digestive issues itself. I also think this is overkill. I wash my hands, I wash my produce, my food comes in packages or bags, I don’t kiss anyone currently, but in the future whoever I do kiss will be rinsing and brushing before kissing if he’s not gluten-free… my younger son (20) is also gluten-free, but my older son who moved out a year ago was not – and we just were careful about wiping up crumbs and using flour, etc. Antibacterial wipes are not the greatest thing to be using, either. I’m not stressing about that, either, but you don’t want to eat off a surface that has been wiped with anything antibacterial that has Triclosan in it… bad stuff. However, I didn’t have to deal with eating gluten-free or feeding my son that way when my kids were young, so THAT is a different story… adults can be cautious but not obsessive, but with kids you never know WHAT will end up in their mouths!

  • Ashley Minor

    OMG! Thank you I would have never thought of some of these examples. I have gone in to anaphylaxis because of a tiny crumb in the brottom of a drawer that a fork came out of. We can never be to carful!!

  • Mandy in Tulsa

    I have a solution for #8! I have my own Kindle! Yay!! And you can check out ebooks now so no library books for me. =)

    • Nancy

      Great solution!! I use audiobook downloads from Overdrive which most libraries have. You do not have to drive to the library to get them or return them. In the case of audiobook, the disks are never scratched because there are no disks. There are audiobooks for children and they are like someone reading you a story. Again you can download at 2 am when the library is closed.
      I worked in libraries for 28 years and always said the books had prehistoric dust mites.

  • Kim

    My cat’s gluten coated treats…I love him too much, so he keeps getting them.

  • bookladyDavina

    while I did switch the dogs to a grain free/gluten free kibble, their treats still have gluten in them.. though this has encouraged me to be less generous with them, which is just as well.. they don’t need to get too fat.. lol.. we also foster dogs and the ones we have right now are little chubsters cuz their previous owners fed them nothing but people food and treats.. (which is better then some of the dogs we’ve gotten who basically never got fed at all.. these 2 came to us because of owner death, not neglect.. always nice to get this sort of rescue..)
    Other then that, I do handle gluten food in the house, in as contained an area as I can.. hubby and the step daughters both spend a lot of time out of the house where they couldn’t be gf w/o a huge fight (girls at their mom’s hubby travels for work) and we are getting ready to do foster care as well, where, unless they have a diagnosis requiring it, I’m not allowed to put them on a pure gf diet.. but we have separated cupboards, a gluten drawer in the fridge, etc and I do the majority of the cooking so I can ensure things don’t get contaminated… am working on trying to train the teenagers, but they are here really for only 2-3 months of the year, so it’s hard to get those habits formed.

  • Mel

    Really? Some of these don’t logically seem like they would be an issue? Maybe it’s because my fiancé and son are not GF so we have it in our home daily but as long as I was my hands before a meal there’s really nothing to stress about! (except no kissing the man after he consumes the enemy) I don’t want to be paranoid and I’ve never had a glutening other than me accidentally consuming it, like at the sushi bar :(

    • Jackie

      I agree. It’s not an ALLERGY that can cause instant death. It’s something we have to avoid, not worry about killing us.

  • Ashleigh

    I am actually a barista and highly gluten intolerent. We serve baked goods but I make sure it never comes in contact with any of the areas drinks are prepared in. They all think I’m crazy with the cleaning but I teach all of my other baristas to do the same. There are too many risks as it is, I won’t let my cafe be one of them.

  • How about kids’ birthday parties? Gluten everywhere. And my daughter who has celiac just got glutened at a party of a good friend who I *thought* understood about cross contamination. Alas, no. Luckily my girl didn’t get a bad (obvious) reaction, but it was really upsetting for my husband and I, and pretty traumatic for my poor daughter (4 yrs old) who was terrified she’d have to go to the hospital. But we’ll still go to parties of course, we can’t live in a bubble, but next time I’ll take my own advice and BOOF (bring our own food). I just thought for once we could trust a friend and come empty handed (not counting the gift), but it didn’t work out. Thanks for this post Nicole, it’s nice to know we aren’t alone in this.

  • Aug 2. 2012 at 7:23 PM

    Michelle thank you for the email but I try not to think of it or I would
    go nuts.

    Love your,
    Friend Michelle

  • Elizabeth

    Well, some of those things are being a little extreme, as a simple hand washing would do the trick. And diahrrea can be from other things, not just gluten exposure. But everyone has to be comfortable with their own issues. As my daughter approaches her senior year in high school, we are facing more and more instances of gatherings with friends who deal with “healthy” eating and think they understand the rigors of allergens and food. Therefore they call at the last minute with a delightful description of how they have organized the whole menu around my daughters gluten free requirements and that she can eat “everything” there. So no need to bring our own food. Sigh. I know they mean well, so I grill them (no pun intended) on what they have and how they made it, what pots and pans and utensils and countertops and etc etc etc. Only the truly dedicated ever offer to cook for her again…LOL…

  • I risked drinking a soda from a gluten infested fast food restaurant because we were on a late night emergency road trip to take the bird to the vet…. I’d forgotten to eat and wanted something so my tummy wouldn’t growl. Plus since I never drink caffiene, a soda is enought to get me wired and I’m not good with late nights. I’m not risking that again.

  • I have actually walked away from a full cart load of stuff at the store because the person in front of me broke a bag of flour all over the conveyor and bagging area. My story might entertain you: http://cocoasglutenfreeplace.blogspot.com/2010/02/when-bad-things-happen-store.html

  • Anneke

    I am of two minds on this. On the one hand, I am extemely careful, both for myself and for my daughter. Our house is all GF, so I have four non-celiacs eating GF all the time, and if we eat out, the first place they go as we leave the table is the restroom to wash their hands. On the other hand, if my daughter thought of all of these potential contaminents, she would never leave home again. She is riddled with anxiety about life in general, and cross contamination in particular, to the point that we are going to send her back to a therapist this fall for some help in dealing with it. I think I will continue to keep all of these in mind, but quietly, so she can hopefully trust that I will keep her safe. As she gets older, I’ll need to work with her more, but right now, I can’t imagine how she would deal with all of these specific (and accurate) glutenizing possibilities.

    BTW, Nicole, I’ve been on vacation, but that zucchini bread will be coming out of my kitchen very soon! Looks delicious! We took lots of GF Nicole recipes on our camping trip — some held up better than others, but they all kept us out of restaurants!


    • It’s funny, Anneke. My whole point in posting this list was in keeping with what you described. But it doesn’t seem to have come across. I am extremely careful, but some risks are unavoidable and I simply must suck them up. The point of this post was to quell anxiety, not stoke it, by showing how universal these concerns are. And that’s why #10 on the list is “leaving the house.” We must leave the house, so we must encounter risk. And we must … suck it up. Or it wouldn’t much be a life worth living, at least in my estimation.

      I certainly never ever talk to my son about these things, lest he be riddled with anxiety himself. He tends to mimic my careful behaviors (as I’m sure your daughter will yours), but if I were to become anxious about these things and share my anxiety with him, it would be unfair. I try very hard to cope with my own concerns without leaning on my children. They should lean on me, not I on them.

      I hope you’re enjoying your vacation. It sounds like you’re eating well!

      xoxo Nicole

      • Anneke

        You are so right about our children leaning on us, not the other way around! My daughter loves to grocery shop with me, so I’ll be keeping those particular concerns to myself.

        As for vacation, it would have been a lot more fun if my son had not broken his arm on the first day . . .


  • Thanks for the post. I thought it interesting that when I went to the allergenist last week and he confirmed I’m not allergic to gluten, not celiac (although I’ve been GF for a year)… So when I ask him “why am I so sensitive when I get cross contamination when I eat at restaurants with a violent reaction”? He asked an example; “my friend stuck her glutened fry in my chili trying to taste it”. (I thought she was going to use a spoon when she asked!) I got sick before even leavening the restaurant! He said, that wouldn’t happen…on the contrary, it did, and even more so that night… :(
    People don’t understand until they go through it themselves…

    • You don’t need anyone’s blessing, Jeni, to take good care of yourself. It doesn’t matter what the name is, or if it even has one. You know how you feel, even if so many others don’t.
      xoxo Nicole

  • Emily

    First off, I wanted to thank you for your posts. The highlight of my Monday morning is finding your “Last week on the Shoestring” email update in my inbox. What wonderful things did she make this week?!?
    This post gave me a good chuckle this morning. I feel this way quite often, and thought it was just me. I smile on the outside as I shake hands with someone whom I just watched eat a donut, but inside I’m having a panic attack and scanning the room for the closest sink. Or when co-workers say, “How much gluten could that really have in it?” as though I’m asking them how much fat is in something.
    My husband used to lovingly refer to me as a “germaphobe” until the day I got sick just drinking out of the same straw as him (he had just eaten a burger). Now he’s a hundred percent on board and even helps me out by “making a big deal” when we go out or to friends’ houses by asking, “should you be eating that?” That way I don’t have to be the one constantly asking what’s in stuff; he can look like the overprotective “bad guy.”
    But yes, so many times I feel like #10 would really be the best solution to my problems….

    • Nancy

      I use self check out when I can. Little kiddies with sticky fingers don’t use it. Yes, this means I get smaller orders but not at all stores.

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