Thursday, July 10, 2008

Painful Mistakes with Gluten ~

I've been sick...I mean really sick from consuming some form of hidden gluten last Wednesday afternoon at lunch. In spite of being super careful and aware all the time when I eat out, and usually hitting my same haunts that I know to be safe, I still fell victim to the miscommunication and oversight that happens sometimes for Celiacs.

Here's the abridged version of the story. Last Wednesday I met my mom for lunch at the new Reno Whole Foods; it's fantastic and 52,000 SF of glistening goodness and tons of gluten-free products. I was so caught up in the excitement of all the perfectly poised salad bar items and the gorgeous prepared foods area, that I became a bit mesmerized and not as careful as I obviously should have been. I was pulled to the Mexican taco bar area, enticed by the delicious looking chicken and beans and rice and ...mmmmm. I told myself, "okay, just be super careful and ask questions and you'll be fine"...yah.

I went with the "plain" cubed chicken breast, a small portion of the sauteed peppers prepared with olive oil, salt and pepper, no tortillas (just to be super safe) and a small scoop of their famous mashed potatoes...okay, I didn't exactly order a traditional Mexican-style plate, but I was trying to be so cautious and safe, omitting the corn tortillas juuuust in case. I was just about the walk away with my steaming plate of fiesta-fun when I hesitated and asked for a small scoop of GUACAMOLE...da da da daaaaaaa. I asked the server if it was gluten-free, but knowing English was not her first language, I should have taken it upon myself to have either asked another employee to be certain, or just passed on the green-goodness...because something about the look of it set off my intuition.

That's all I should need to know, but I still ate it hoping that the server was correct and I was good to go.

We were both very wrong.

Within two hours of going back to my office I sensed that tenderness that hits the small intestine when its been compromised with gluten. I knew I was in trouble...and eight days later, I'm still dealing with the inability to eat very many solid foods (or food at all) and feeling so exhausted and nauseous. I know the symptoms are different for everyone, but these are some of mine.

I'm just going to say that I LOVE Whole Foods for many reasons and at this point I'm even trying to partner with our local WF marketing person to create even more Celiac awareness in our region with classes, tours, etc. They are great about creating awareness for their customers. But what I did learn today, is that the "prepared foods" section of the Reno store is not by an stretch, a gluten- free environment, hence the cross-contamination or added gluten (food starch) in some form, in the guacamole I ate. I didn't know this - now I do and my sole message today is for all of you to triple check where you shop and purchase prepared foods, or check at your own Whole Foods, because each location is different. I also learned that the Reno location has a "scratch" bakery on site and next to the prepared foods section, so there's definitely some flour flying around. I was told by the WF employee that they cannot even guarantee the salad bar area to be 100% GF - so eat at your own risk in those parts of the store. Seriously.

On a much happier note, I did find out that the Reno store is offering a Celiac/Gluten-Free product tour next Thursday, July 17th at 6 p.m.. Call the store for more details: Whole Foods Market -5695 S Virginia St, Reno -(775) 829-8666. Don't miss this opportunity to tour the store and learn more and more about what a Celiac can and cannot eat.

Stay tuned for more news from Whole Foods, as I hopefully get the opportunity to assist with their Celiac awareness programs in the near future!

I do hope that this post will help some of you with making good food choices when eating out. I know it's helped me realize that no matter matter how busy or how many customers you hold up, or how much extra time it takes for an employee to research what you are asking them about gluten, it's always, always the correct way to go.

It's our safety and our quality of life at stake.

One last thing - it always takes me at least two-three weeks to heal after I get poisoned, and knowing that everyone is so unique, I would be very interested to know how long it takes others of you out there to heal when this happens to you?

Be well~


Unknown said...


It takes me quite a while also. I also have the family get sick sometimes so we chalk it up to "stomach flu" Mine is mostly mental. Fatigue, irratability, and some depression. And they really do not understand at work!!

Try to be as careful as you can!!

Anonymous said...

Don't feel too bad about getting exposed to wheat. It happens sometimes. I just consider that eating out is risky for celiacs. Last November I got a bad reaction from a meal at PF Changs that I ordered as gluten free. On Cinco De Mayo I got sick from a Jose Cuervo Margarita mix. None of the ingredients looked suspicious. But I think now that the citric acid was derived from wheat. No warning on the label.

Depending on how much wheat is involved, I am sick from a few days to a month. Very debilitating with cramps, diarrhea, fatigue. My brain goes into neutral. Moving around makes it worse so I spend alot of time in front of the TV with a heating pad. Sometimes there is heartburn and nausea. Vicodin can be a real blessing, but it puts me out.

Towards the end, the cramps ease off, and I get flu like joint and body aches. Lastly, a migraine like headache. You are right - it's like being poisoned.

In my case, the symptoms don't start until after breakfast the following day.

I have had a lot fewer problems since I quit eating out so much, but it's not great for a person's social life.

Take care. I enjoy your blog.

Anonymous said...

I don't know if I've had this happen to me yet. I've only been diagnosed for about 14 months now. All I know is I never really felt great most of my life and since trying to keep the gluten out, my health has improved.

I get depressed when I try to eat out. I haven't had any trouble at PF Cheng's. Got depressed at Green Onion though as I always seem to go there when they don't have a gluten free soup out. Sometimes I really get sick of eating nothing but salads when I go out.

The Whole Foods prepared foods area had me almost in tears the other night. I wanted some chicken really bad but everything they had out (besides the cubed stuff) had some sort of wheat-based sauce.

My husband felt so bad that there was hardly anything there I could eat (this was later in the evening and most good stuff was gone) that he said we won't eat there anymore.

I guess staying home might be the best options but it's gets depressing due to the loss of the social aspect of it. Oh, well, guess we will save money!

Rhona said...

I have not been diagnosed with Celiac or Gluten intolerance yet..waiting on the gene testing results as we speak but for many many years(12+) I have been suffering and going from one dr to another. It has gone from the severe stomach pain to near syncope and unbalance(feeling like am falling)until I put myself on a bland diet....then I will be fine until I eat regular again and then am sick for months on end..muscle weakness, fatigue, nausea and just a total feeling of unwell. Just found out about Gluten and Celiac 4 months ago and have been trying to maintain a total Gluten Free diet. The only hard part for me is not knowing what has hidden gluten but unknowingly I was putting myself on a gluten free diet everytime I felt bad over the past 12 years and explaining to each GI doc I saw that eating bland helped me and going back on a normal diet got me sick and not one suggested that I do the biopsy of the small intestine...they all thought it was a cardiologic or neurologic issue. Now that I am on the Gluten Free and asked about the Celiac the GI docs now want me to go back on Gluten to do the test and that I will not do because of how bad I feel and how long the bad feeling lasts.

Thank you so much for this blog...just found it and will continue to read it