You’re not just ‘a little bit coeliac’

It’s really easy to moan about how crappy labelling is at restaurants and cafes. But recently I’ve talked to a few restaurant staff who are being driven crazy by people’s requests for gluten-free food that’s not really gluten-free, or requests for the gluten-free menu and then receiveing an order for something that’s not gluten-free.

Not sure what I mean? It’s the people who ask for the gluten-free options and then when told something on the menu isn’t gluten-free will order it and eat it anyway. It’s the person who says they’re ‘only mildly coeliac’ so can get away with having chips cooked in the same oil as gluteny goodies. 

Yup there are a lot of people around who fit into one of these two those categories.

Gluten intolerance/sensitivity

If you’re gluten intolerant and don’t have major symptoms, you might be able to eat gluten-free most of the time and get away with a little bit of gluten on the odd occasion. Since you’re not a coeliac, the symptoms aren’t likely to be life threatening or dangerous, and I can see why you’d want to eat gluten sometimes. Whether you do or not, is up to you to assess your symptoms vs. the option of eating something yum.

Coeliac disease

If you have coeliac disease regardless of how mild your symptoms are, you must still adhere to a strict gluten-free diet at all times. That’s less than 20 parts per million of gluten i.e. barely detectable. This means you can’t eat gluten-free chips that are cooked in the same deep fryer as gluteny products. This means you can’t take a holiday from being gluten-free.

There’s no such thing as being ‘a little bit coeliac’, it’s like saying you’re ‘a little bit pregnant’. Even if you don’t seem to have symptoms when you do eat gluten, you’re still doing damage to your small intestine. You’ll also be increasing your risk of developing some cancers, other auto-immune diseases, mineral deficiencies, osteoporosis and a host of other crappy things you’d rather not have.


So while I’m frustrated at the standard of gluten-free food labelling in some cafes and restaurants, I can also see how annoying it could be for owners who are trying their best to deliver a product that their customers are asking for.

Thank you so much to the cafe and restaurant owners and staff who are super careful with their food labelling, food handling and the time you take to keep us safe – you’re awesome. I bet sometimes you’d just like to give up on the whole ‘gluten-free’ altogether. Please know that you’re appreciated so very much by those of us coeliacs who are trying really hard to stay well. 

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