Celiac In A Family Of Gluten Eaters?

Being silly in Vegas

Are you a lone celiac in a family of gluten lovers? Are you the only one in your group of friends who has a restrictive diet? Despite the research which tells us that our close relatives have a one in ten chance of developing the disease, many of the celiacs I’ve spoken with are the only (diagnosed) celiac in their family. Living with celiac disease can be difficult in a household where everyone else is eating gluten but it is even more challenging if our nearest and dearest do not take our disease seriously.

One of the reasons why I adjusted to my gluten free diet so well was the support and understanding I received from my family and friends. At home it’s just me and my hubby. He can eat gluten (and loves to especially when it comes to Pizza!) but in our home he doesn’t. There is nothing gluten containing in our apartment. This was his decision. He doesn’t want to risk me getting sick. (He’s very handsome too so I’m very lucky!) For breakfast he eats gluten free cereal and most evenings we eat gluten free dinner together. Lunch time at work is his gluten time.

On visiting my family in Scotland they stock up on my favourite cereal and other products they know to be safe. They won’t cook something without first allowing me to double check each ingredient and they are very cross contamination aware. Similarly, when I meet friends for lunch or dinner they always let me choose the restaurant and they don’t get mad if I decide to walk out because I don’t feel safe eating there. I appreciate all of these lovely people but I didn’t realise just how lucky I am until I began speaking to other celiacs whose nearest and dearest are not quite as accommodating when it comes to their gluten free diet. It is probably much easier to have a completely gluten free household if there are only two of you. When you have a bunch of gluten loving kids sharing your space I have no doubt that it makes keeping gluten out of your home much more challenging. I’d love to hear how you deal with this.

How understanding/accommodating are your close friends and family? Has everyone gone gluten free to keep your home life cross contamination free or do you have your own little section of the kitchen? Do you wish your family were more considerate about your disease?

If you are the loved one of a celiac, what have you done to ensure the celiac in your household is kept safe? Have you made any changes to your diet since they were diagnosed? Please share your stories here. Who knows, your story may help a fellow celiac to stay safe as a lone celiac in a family of gluten eaters. For any family member of a newly diagnosed celiac who isn’t too sure what they could be doing to help, you may find my next article interesting and helpful. ‘How to support someone with celiac disease.’



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  • I’m very lucky to live in a place (Catalonia, Spain) with huge Celiac disease awareness, although compared to other places (Italy, for instance), there’s little economic support. In my case, I was directly addressed by my doctor to the Catalan Coeliac Association (http://www.celiacscatalunya.org/) where both my family and I were given a “crash course” in living with a Celiac person for free completely. I joined their association because of the good service and advice they keep on providing.

    Sometimes it’s very hard. Thankfully, there’s enough cupboard space to keep things separated and, in a family of bread-lovers as mine, bread is stored at the opposite sice of the kitchen. My family has minimized food that could contain gluten and just cooks in different pots (and different areas) when it comes to unavoidable things (soup, pasta…).

    My biggest issue is economical. As long as I stick to “standard” non-glutenous food (rice, beans, vegetables, etc..), it is ok. But pasta used to be the cheap alternative when I was short on dough and it’s not something I can do anymore. Take this example: 250g of Spaghetti barely cost 50 cents in Spain, compared to the almost 3€ you have to pay for the gluten-free version. Bread? Forget about it. Fake baguettes cost more than 2€ and can only be reserved for special occasions. Even if you bake your own bread, it’s rather expensive: 1kg of bread flour costs 70 cents and yields 2 loaves. 1kg of gluten-free bread mix costs from 3 to 5 euros. Everything adds up, so you have to give up a lot when it comes to starches.

    Or do as my family: we still keep our paella as a tradition, which is something naturally gluten-free.

    Thank you for your site

  • Allison

    Nov 15th, 2011

    Hey, thanks for writing this. I commented on another post about this same thing. I am the lone celiac in my family. My husband is wonderful with my diet and our house is gluten free. He will eat anything he wants at work, but when we cook, it’s all gluten free. He is an amazing cook and has perfected some wonderful gluten free recipes. I have great friends who go above and beyond making sure I can eat if they have an event (wedding, birthday), but it’s my family (mine and my husband’s) who really could care less. I don’t know if they are just ignorant about celiac, or really just don’t care. I actually had a family member say to me, “well it’s not like you’re going to die if you bite into this food…”. It can be frustrating because if the shoe were on another foot, I would take it seriously and try to be accommodating to their diet. It would be wonderful if our families could be a little more considerate, but I’m not holding my breath.

  • Xavier, Thanks for sharing. 🙂 How interesting that you and your family were given a crash course in living gluten free. Is is normal that everyone in Catalonia diagnosed as celiac is offered this service for free? What a fantastic idea…it would be extremely helpful if every country were to provide a service like this.

    I certainly agree with you on how expensive specialised gluten free products such as bread and pasta can be in comparison to their gluten filled counterparts. I too try to eat naturally gluten free foods as much as possible such as rice, beans, eggs, fruit and veg etc.

    Que bueno..todavia puedemos comer paella! Me encantalo 🙂

  • Allison, It’s great to hear that your husband and friends are so accommodating but not so good to hear that some other family members are not. It certainly sounds frustrating! How long have you known you are celiac? Have you spoken to them about what it means to be celiac and what will happen if you eat even a little bit of gluten? Perhaps they just don’t realise the consequences of you eating gluten or they don’t want to face that’s this is a real, serious issue..Whatever the reason I really hope they start to become more considerate about your dietary needs. Does this prevent you from feeling safe eating at their homes?

  • I”m very lucky too. We keep our house gluten free, and like you, it was my husband’s decision. Lunchtime at work is his time to indulge in gluten. We both love to cook and love spending time together in the kitchen. My family and his are also amazingly accommodating and understanding. Whenever I go to my parents or his, everything is made safe for me.

  • Hi Else, thanks for commenting. Your situation sounds very similar to mine. Yay for supportive husbands and families! I wish everyone’s were like this. It would make life so much simpler for celiacs.

  • I’m the only diagnosed celiac in my family, but my brother-in-law and his 10 year old son are gluten intolerant, so they are gluten free as well. My husband, in order to support me, has completely gone off gluten and all my cooking is gluten free too. We haven’t missed it one bit…and I certainly don’t miss me being deathly ill. 😉 Since I was diagnosed in September, I’ve also had a few friends find out they couldn’t tolerate gluten. It’s been fun to learn together.

  • I’m the only (diagnosed) celiac in my family, and – at first – they didn’t know what to do with me! My husband refuses to eat gluten-free (he says it smells funny), and so I have to cook two different meals on many days when he requests that I cook things I can’t eat. I constantly have to wipe the toast crumbs off the kitchen counter to avoid contamination! Most of my friends are very understanding, and ask where I can eat out when we make plans. When I go on vacation to see family, I try to tuck some GF pasta and treats in my backpack before I board the plane. Then I usually cook the meals to avoid problems. I gave Mom a spatula and non-stick skillet which she keeps wrapped in plastic, using it only when I go down to Georgia. She’s the best!

  • I am the only one in my family. My husband is very supportive but we still have gluten items in our home because of him and our kids. I have no problems at home. My Mom tries but doesn’t quite understand how cross contamination works. When we have get togethers she usually doesn’t want me to bring anything but I also can’t really be safe there either. (Yes, I’ve gotten so sick there I could barely function for a week–tough with toddlers!) The worst though is probably that my Dad makes fun of me almost every time I visit and we have a meal. I’ve told him I won’t even respond to his comments. I have offered to have everyone over to our home so I can prepare the food but they don’t want that either. Holidays can be stressful anyway and I really don’t want to deal with it sometimes. I’m still trying to work on recipes so they seem more like what my family expects. Wish me luck!!

  • I am on my own and was diagnosed 4 years ago. I find all your advice is most helpful. I am lucky, as my family always consider my needs and many of my friends cook special cakes etc when visiting and non coeliacs find they enjoy the things too! I am still experimenting however as things do not always turn out right and now wish to do more cooking with rice flour. Thanks for your news letter even though I am in England.