The title of this post is something I hear ALL. THE. TIME. And quite honestly, I often give exactly that response. It’s as if people think that you just sorta choose the days you want to be a celiac. Wishful thinking.
August 2013 was a big milestone in the world of gluten free, but definitely a confusing one. Hearing that the FDA finally released the following definition of gluten free left me in a bit of a blur:
“ ‘Gluten-free’ as meaning that the food either is inherently gluten free; or does not contain an ingredient that is: 1) a gluten-containing grain (e.g., spelt wheat); 2) derived from a gluten-containing grain that has not been processed to remove gluten (e.g., wheat flour); or 3) derived from a gluten-containing grain that has been processed to remove gluten (e.g., wheat starch), if the use of that ingredient results in the presence of 20 parts per million (ppm) or more gluten in the food. Also, any unavoidable presence of gluten in the food must be less than 20 ppm. “ [FDA Gluten Free Ruling]
So you mean to tell me I’ve been living in my tightly controlled world of gluten free but for all I knew, a product labeled GF may, in fact, actually not be?! The gluten free world went into a frenzy of “wow, finally a standard!” while I was perhaps more bewildered than particularly ecstatic at the moment. But, little did I know, the definition of gluten free in Europe now, and in 2012 when I spent 3 weeks on what I call my “Euro-Road Trip” [to be discussed at length!], the standard for gluten free is significantly higher than what we know as our safe, 20 ppm.
After I graduated high school in June 2013, I became a true world traveler. Passport in hand, and Daniel [remember him from my post about my US road trip?] and his family waiting for me some 8 hours later in the Copenhagen airport, I was flying high… and solo. I’d never expected the incredible experience I was about to have—from the sights, to some safe spontaneity, long hours in traffic on the Autobahn in Germany, and long hours on the beach in Nice, I was about to have three weeks that no words, or pictures, can really do justice. And, I was about to do it with another diabetic celiac.
Woah, I could not only travel the world on my own, but I could get there and not occupy my mind-space with a single thought about food for dinner, or having enough emergency snacks for the gridlock traffic for 14 hours. However, as I mentioned, I was in for a bit of a rude awakening upon trying all the gluten free brands that weren’t available in America, cause after a few days of that freshly made “gluten-removed flour rye bread,” which of course was labeled gluten free, and my body was not happy with me.
Long story short on the unexciting end of the trip, I came to really wonder if being a celiac in the United States has afforded me a different, much lower tolerance for gluten in my diet, and whether or not I was benefitting from a healthier population of villi. Nonetheless, I spent the rest of the trip sticking to the brands of labeled GF products that are imported into the US that I’d spent most my life eating, and definitely avoided the buffet bars—as I’d always done in the States, but if Daniel was doing it, why couldn’t I?
Take it easy, but take it.