June 16th, 2020

6 mins read

Gluten-Free survival guide

I’ve written this letter a few times since I figured out my celiac’s disease in July 2011, so I thought i’d write it publicly for once.

By Alex Podl



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I can’t do this anymore. And many more animated gifs to take the edge off from the when I went Gluten Free Tumblr.

[Update: Sept. 2014: We’re all on a journey together and I’ve changed a few of my thoughts on how to manage autoimmune issues. Skip the cookies I recommend below and jump over to http://autoimmune-paleo.com/ you’ll get much better advice on how to improve your gut/situation. Below we’ve got some great tips on simply surviving.]

I’ve written this letter a few times since I figured out my celiac’s disease in July 2011, so I thought i’d write it publicly for once.


Bummer to hear that you’re going gluten-free. I’ll start by being honest. It’s really really hard, and it’s going to get worse before it gets better. A few weeks in are you? That’s about the point where insanity and self loathing starts to creep in. Your relationship with food is fundamentally different now. What was once joy, is now a minefield. Been there, not much fun is it? Here is how I survived. Individual results may vary because celiac itself varies from one person to the next.

1) Enjoy Life. That’s the first thing you need to know. It’s not only a way of life, it’s also a brand. http://www.enjoylifefoods.com/ I implore you to go out and find a box of their cookies (chocolate chip is my favorite.) and eat the whole thing. Seriously go for it, I’ll wait . . . tasty huh? These are your safe place. They are free of the top eight food allergens and simply a pleasure to eat.

2) Welcoming kitchen. You’ve got to figure out some new ways to eat and stay safe at home. The Welcoming Kitchen Cookbook has some great recipes to get you started. The recipes are all gluten free, vegan and nut free, and free of a couple other things too. So if you’re still trying to figure out everything you’re allergic to, this is a another safe place you can go, and it’s a better choice than the cookies. They have a blog too.

3) Trust No one. You’re going to be really complicated. But you have to be. Only you can keep you safe. Sometimes in restaurants you just have to be the asshole at the table. You can no longer blindly trust waiters or restaurants, you’ve got to size up everything. For me if a waiter doesn’t understand my spiel, there are only two options: Salad or steak. Anything else in between is just too nuanced. Don’t feel bad about this, and don’t let it slip, you’ve got to stand up for yourself to keep yourself safe.

4) It gets worse. This part kind of sucks. Your body has just begun a magical healing process. It’s not quick, but it is amazing. For me, I went 25 years with a bad diagnosis, it takes some time for your gut to heal after that. The crazy thing that happens as you heal is that you get MORE sensitive. The amount of gluten it can take to set off a reaction is insanely low. True stories: Once I kissed my wife after she had a BLT, boom got me. Another time, I was being nice and stopped into a bakery to pick up treats for everybody else, grabbed a fresh squeezed O.J. for myself and the story ends badly from that. One of the other things to look out for is that you’re not just dealing with the food you know about, it’s the environment it came from, and what your kissing buddies have eaten too.

5) This kinda sucks huh? Don’t worry, you’re not alone, and the internet can help you! Three places to go:

5a: http://wheniwentglutenfree.tumblr.com/ Animated gifs galore. Grab your cookies and sit here for a while. My personal favorite.

5b: http://www.pinterest.com/mapgoblin/gluten-free-memes/ I’ve got a pretty good board going on Pinterest, where I collect what I find.

5c: http://www.reddit.com/r/glutenfreememes/ another good collection, and an awesome community nearby at http://www.reddit.com/r/glutenfree

6) Pizza. Don’t try to replace it. It often comes out tasting like the box it came in. It’s the one thing I still miss, mainly for what it represents, 30 seconds on the phone and 30 minutes later hot gooey food is in your mouth. The best I’ve ever had was at a little place in the village: http://eatdrinkwild.com/ not too helpful since I live in Michigan!

7) Cross Contamination. This is a tricky one to get a feel for as it’s everywhere. I always try to order simple in restaurants; the fewer ingredients, the fewer steps, the better. Also go at off peak times so your order gets some concentration and not a hustle through between other breads and things. Also, never get anything from bulk bins at grocery stores unless you can rinse it, huge source of CC. Get your owns jar of peanut butter at home. Why? cause if there is any bread anywhere nearby, somebody will double dip a knife in after it touches the bread and boom contacts and danger. Eat first. It reduces the chances of cross contact in any environment where somebody else has bread, pasta or any other form of weaponized allergen.

8) Epidemic of Absence. No rush on this one, but when you’re ready, be sure to read the Epidemic of Absence. It will open your eyes and scare you as to what it happening inside of your body and around our world. And let me know when you’re ready to go to Tijuana. I’m serious there bro/hon, I’ll drive.

9) Hidden Gluten. You will just get ill at times and have no idea why. It happens. It shouldn’t be very often, but it happens and you won’t know what went wrong. Just remember that all you can really do is work to reduce the odds that you find yourself eating something that might have gone wrong. So always carry food with you, and never show up hungry to anything. You always want to have the option to just skip this meal.

10) Live big! I dropped 30 pounds when I went on the fear of all food diet. I feel great and I drive people insane with my crazy requirements and the complicated factors that need to be considered. With a little practice you’ll be able to do all this after two glasses of wine!

It was great catching up. Let me know how it goes. And we’ll grab lentils next time you’re in town.




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