Being Gluten-Free in a Non-Gluten-Free Family

Last updated: January 2022

I had entirely given up on gluten a couple of months ago, and it has changed my digestive health so much. No more constant bloating, no more back-to-back flares for seemingly no reason. Unless I’m feeling anxious or my hormones are acting up, I usually feel alright. It's been 100-percent worth it, yet going gluten-free has been the hardest diet change for me so far.

Since being diagnosed with IBS several years ago, I've cut out dairy, onions, spices, sauces... the list goes on and on. But nothing was as difficult as eating no gluten at all.

Gluten is everywhere

So many foods and meals contain gluten. Burgers have buns, Italian restaurants have pizzas and pasta, and most people use wheat flour to thicken a sauce. It feels like there's literally nothing I can eat if I haven't made it myself. People also don’t realize what ‘gluten-free’ actually means. I can't count how many times my in-laws tried persuading me that a certain cake was gluten-free, although it had a crust. They think about bread and pasta and yet completely fail to recognize that I can't have anything containing regular flour.

And let's not talk about all the pastries I can't have. I live in France, and we love our breakfast pastries on the weekends only now I have to make do with a banana instead.

Maybe this is different depending on where you live. Maybe other countries offer a wider variety of gluten-free options. For me, however, ready-made foods are usually off-limits.

Eating out is almost impossible

Similarly, there's almost no way for me to go out to eat. Most restaurants in France do not signal gluten on their menus, so it's impossible for me to know what I can and can't eat. Things become almost impossible if you add all my other food sensitivities into the mix.

I would love to eat out more or even order in. My partner and I both work, plus we have a toddler, so cooking every day quickly becomes a problem. The only thing we can order is Japanese food, and even there, I struggle because I have to stay far away from noodles and anything breaded.

Making two versions of everything

When it comes to homemade foods, I find it equally hard to be the only gluten-free person in a family who eats gluten. We usually have to make normal pasta/crêpes/waffles for my partner and our son and a gluten-free version for me. This takes twice as long and is very annoying when you already have little time.

When people complain gluten-free is "not good”

The other option is just to make the gluten-free option for everyone. While this is technically easier, it gets really expensive quickly (more on that later). In addition, my partner and son seem to prefer "normal" versions of food. We made gluten-free waffles once. I thought I would never hear the end of it.

Constant fear of mixing up pasta

Since we often have two different versions of the same food lying around, I constantly panic about mixing them up. Especially pasta, because the gluten-free pasta we have looked exactly like regular pasta. Only imagine what would happen to me if I accidentally ate an entire bowl of trigger food. I don't even want to think about it.

To avoid stressing about this, I always try to buy different types of pasta, so I know that fusilli are always gluten-free, for example. My partner does not go along with this, though, so it’s still a regular source of anxiety for me.

Being the one with the most expensive food options

A big problem with gluten-free options here in France is that they're very limited and extremely pricey. Think ten times more expensive than regular versions. I always feel so bad about buying these foods, and my partner never ceases to remind me that I'm "currently eating 5 euros, so I better enjoy them". He does it as a joke, of course, but it does bother me a lot to spend so much money on food.

To avoid that, I mostly try to rely on naturally gluten-free foods like rice or potatoes. At least they're cheaper, and I do love them, so it's fine.

Not being able to share

My final issue with being gluten-free is my inability to share food. Or course, I can (and do) share my gluten-free versions. But I have a toddler who's currently in a very generous phase and constantly wants to give me a bite of his sandwich/meal/dessert. And I hate to disappoint him. As of now, he's far too little to understand my IBS, but I do try to explain that this food would make mommy sick. Or I just pretend to take a bite.

Why is a gluten-free diet so hard?

There are 2 main reasons I struggle so much with a gluten-free diet. Firstly, gluten is everywhere, with very few alternatives. Secondly, it's because I eliminated it.

While I'm also sensitive to dairy, onions, and raw veggies, I usually tolerate those in small quantities. I know I can't have milk or yogurt, but crème Fraiche or hard cheese is fine. I would never touch cabbage or cauliflower, but I can have a tomato or piece of cucumber without getting too bloated.

With gluten, I'm just not sure. I've followed a "mostly gluten-free" diet before, and it didn't help as much as eliminating gluten. I don't know if I could have one pastry and be okay. I don't know what one bite of regular bread will do to me. And as of now, I have no intention of trying it out. Because no matter how hard it is, it's just so worth it to feel better daily.

Are you currently on a gluten-free diet? I would love to hear about your experience!

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