Alice Bast: Hi! I am Alice Bast, President and C.
O of the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness, whereas part of our mission we help the gluten-free community live life to the fullest.
How would it feel if you had to be fearful of everything you put in your mouth, every day, every meal for the rest of your life? I'm here to talk about what it is like that celiac disease and gluten sensitivity and how you can help to create an environment that promotes safety and well-being for those on a lifelong gluten-free diet.
Lots of people are trying a gluten-free diet for a variety of perceived health benefits. Our researchers estimate that there are nearly 21 million people in the United States that need to eat gluten-free to manage serious medical conditions, less than one crumb of a gluten containing food can make someone with celiac disease very sick. Well not everyone with celiac disease will appear sick after gluten exposure; many suffer from debilitating symptoms for hours or days after exposure. This can occur from gluten that is hidden in unlabeled ingredients or from cross contact anywhere from field to fork.
Someone with celiac disease can experience intestinal damage which leads to long-term health consequences from a salad that may have once been in contact with croutons. Packaged products that are labeled gluten-free are mostly safe, but eating out requires investigation, attention to detail and trust.
Our organization works hard to educate and empower those with celiac disease, to learn how to look for restaurants with proper training and strict protocols so they could eat without fear. Imagine if your personal health history became the topic of most dinner parties or social gatherings, here are some tips to make someone with celiac disease feel comfortable when dining out.
Allow them to pick the restaurant, ensure they are comfortable with the choice before ordering and allow extra time for ordering, meal preparation and possibly even remaking the meal if a mistake is made. Don't minimize how they are feeling when they are looking at the menu, ordering, checking meals for hours and requesting changes.
Expect dialogue with the waitstaff and don't make their needs become the center of attention. While people with celiac disease and gluten sensitivity are typically comfortable with others eating gluten around them. You can provide a special level of support and compassion by ordering a gluten-free dish yourself and declining to have bread place to the table.
We all want to eat without fear, for people with celiac disease and gluten sensitivity, confidence and explaining their needs and asking questions is essential to their health and well-being, help them not feel isolated or excluded so they are not tempted to take risks. Support from friends, family and co-workers can enable those on a gluten-free diet to live life to the fullest.