The Gluten Free Allergy Stigma


I wasn’t sure what to title this at first. This is mainly about my experiences going gluten free a few months ago when I discovered I had a wheat allergy and the slight hurdles that come with it. I am not severely allergic to wheat and to my knowledge, do not have celiacs, but eating wheat products does cause some stomach aches and discomfort. Sometimes I can be sick for a whole day or two just for eating wheat bread. When I got the results for my allergy test, I was in a bit of denial until I put two and two together: the correlation between my stomach aches and the wheat. I’ve found that most gluten free products are also wheat free and I decided to change my diet.

My allergies were pretty much a conga-line, a long list of things ranging from peanuts, to shrimp and sesame seeds. I found that people took my peanut allergy very seriously, but my allergy to wheat? Not so much.

At first, it was very difficult, in particular at my job which I’m occasionally stationed at a deli and make delicious- looking sandwiches which of course, consist of wheat.  Plus, as an avid foodie, it was also rather disappointing to go down the grocery aisles and sort of make mental notes on all the things I couldn’t eat. Being part Italian and being surrounded by bread and pasta during family gatherings made things a little challenging. Sometimes I worry about hurting other’s feelings due to the things I’m allergic to. But after explaining the allergies to family before gatherings, they understand and know that my own health is important.

I’ve had to relearn how to cook some of my favorite meals but that comes with a huge plus: I have gotten much better at cooking and can make more of a variety of meals than ever before.

Gluten free foods have been a fad in recent years, even with people who do not have the allergy. This is a way, both a blessing and a curse for people who have the allergy: there’s more gluten free foods readily available in super markets but at the same time, there is a stigma and even assumption that someone is eating gluten free for the sake of the fad.

It can be a little frustrating, especially at restaurants and food courts. If a place offers gluten free bread, I jump right onto the opportunity, as I find things such as sandwiches and burgers to be a special treat. I’ve found that a few servers assume that my allergy is more of a preference…and I end up getting regular bread. Either that, or there have been some mix ups back in the kitchen. This happened at multiple restaurants, and once at a convention.  I get sick hours later, when I’m away from any sort of eatery. I feel like I need to explain my allergy and tell people that having wheat can make me feel sick. Just like any other allergy, an allergy to wheat/gluten is just as valid and I think they should be taken seriously.



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