Sunday, July 31, 2011

No I'm not pregnant ... it's gluten.

My friend Alisa asked me today how my Celiac was coming along. You know, did I have it under control? For me that is a loaded question. I have it under control 95% of the time when I eat only what I buy from the grocery store and make from scratch at home. However, in reality, how many of you make your meals from scratch every day, every month, every year? There are times for me when I have to eat at a restaurant or simply want to try something new. When I try something new I read the ingredients fully and know that according to the ingredient list I’m fine … but many times it’s not as accurate as I would like it to be. Pesto sauce, salsa, lentils, buckwheat, cinnamon, chili powder, and more have all gotten me sick … even though by themselves they should be okay. It’s that darn cross contamination that comes with the globalization of our food systems. Sure lentils are gluten free … but when they are shipped from one country to another in giant crates and blown through a grain elevator that’s had wheat, barley or rye in it … or gets re-packaged in a large factory that has wheat flour floating in the air, then I get sick.

Same goes for having to eat out. Eating out at a restaurant used to be a great pleasure for me, but now it is a nightmare. The only restaurants where I haven’t gotten sick every time I go are the dedicated ones and there aren’t that many around. Oddly enough I have pretty good success at Boston Pizza if I ask them not to cut the pizza and keep it super plain.  The dough is shipped in from elsewhere and is kept in the cooler where they prepare the whole thing. So most times it works out for me, but of course, not all the time.  Many places I’ve gone to that advertise gluten free bread or pasta options or special menus still get me sick. I’m just too sensitive. When I travel for work to small towns it gets worse. Sometimes the hotels don’t have refrigerators or kitchenettes for me so I eat out even more.*

This weekend is the first weekend in literally 2 months that I’ve been home. I’ve been travelling to Victoria, Vancouver, and other such places every weekend. When I go to Victoria I hit up Origin bakery for gluten free sandwiches for lunch and scones or muffins for breakfast and then only have to worry about dinner, but even that doesn’t work all the time. Even though I’m trying to lean towards grain free, when I travel it’s too much to figure out for me so I just stick with gluten free. But some days or weeks even that seems too much.

Today is the first day in several weeks I haven’t been bloated. I’ve been strict. No eating out, no food made by anyone else, no trying some new product that isn’t tried and true, and only eating simple foods … like a whole lot of salads.  The combination of travelling on weekends and getting sick from foods that I thought were safe over and over again these past weeks has been frustrating. It’s not for the lack of trying, but for me, my symptoms last 2-4 days after bad contamination. By the time I might be starting to feel better, something else gets me. I sometimes long for being one of those people who say they aren’t that sensitive. Yet on the other I know what is getting me sick and can avoid it, while others may be consuming it unaware.

A long time ago I read another blogger who posted pictures of her before and after a gluten attack. It helped me in so many ways … knowing that I wasn’t the only one struggling with this issue and knowing that a gluten free blogger that is well in the know can still get glutened. For a long time I’ve been meaning to do the same thing. But it’s hard; you know … willingly having your picture taken when you feel like an elephant.  So it’s been a while in the making but below is my photo. The one that shows how big my stomach really gets. The photo on the left is how far I can push my stomach out on a good clean healthy day. The photo on the right is what gluten does to me and why I where so many baggy shirts when I go to eat out at a restaurant! The bloating is of course only one of many symptoms, but it’s the one I try to hide the most. Not many girls want to look like they are 4-5 months pregnant every time they eat.

I’ve been told that seeing the difference helps those who do not suffer, understand why it is so vitally important not to eat gluten. So to help your friends/family understand and to help you not feel so alone I’ve posted this image for you.

Left: Normal distance I can push my stomach out on a good day.  Right: What gluten does to my stomach ... ouch!

P.S. My boyfriend forced me to smile in the second (right) picture. I certainly didn’t feel like smiling at the time!

* A co-worker taught me a new trick though. If you have to stay at a hotel with no fridge and can’t take a cooler on a plane with you, then bring several Ziploc bags and fill them with ice from the hotel ice machine. Works like a charm! Just make sure to refresh the ice on a regular basis.


  1. Thank you SOoo much for writing this! I have been eating gluten-free fir over four years now and posting recipes at It's so amazing to have someone talk about this sensitive issue!

  2. Thank you for your picture of bloating. I too travel so much and try to bring a food bag. I know the frustration of being bloated on the road. I recently figured out that soy lattes make me bloat, just like gluten. Rox

  3. Hi Tiffany! I'm Alisa's friend, Raechelle, and she tipped me off a while ago about your blog and I am happy to have looked it up finally. Our 6 year-old son was diagnosed with Celiac Disease on Christmas Eve and we've been attempting to have him be gluten free since the beginning of January of this year. Your visual of the bloated belly is helpful, as we don't always know when he's gotten glutened, but I have seen that belly on my poor kid before. We are working really hard to cut out the cross-contamination, with the rest of the family still eating gluten. I'm reading and absorbing so much info on gluten, but of course it is completely overwhelming and there is always SO much more to learn. Thanks for sharing your experiences!

    1. Thanks Raechelle :) If you have any questions I'm always happy to help, just ask Alisa for my email!