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Being a Gluten Free Mom in Mankato

I have an autoimmune disease, one called celiac disease. This means my immune system can’t tell the difference between harmful invaders and parts of my body when I eat gluten. I was diagnosed when I was thirty about 9 months after my 3rd baby was born almost 9 years ago. I’m one of the lucky 1 in 100 that have the disease world wide. Celiac disease also has a genetic component so the chance that my kids could have celiac disease is between 4% and 16% or 1 in 25 to 1 in 6. Several people in my family have been diagnosed with it too so it’s nice to not being alone in having it.

Celiac disease is a somewhat easy autoimmune disease to manage. I don’t have to take meds or be monitored closely. I only have to stay away from gluten. The gluten protein is in certain grains like wheat, spelt, kamut, farro, durum, bulgar, semolina, barley, rye, and triticale. The tricky part comes in avoiding things derived from gluten-y grains like malt, malt usually comes from barley. Or soy sauce, did you know wheat is used to make soy sauce? Lots of candies have hidden gluten like Crunch bars or Ferrero-Rocher, so I have to read lots of labels.

Eating out is risky. I have to take all the responsibility for choosing food prepared in a restaurant. I can’t blame Panera or Subway if I get sick when eating a gluten free menu item, these types of restaurants have bread and crumbs everywhere. There are great places in Mankato that I can eat at, knowing my risk of getting some gluten in my food is low. Friessens has great gluten free cookies, cakes and bread, I haven’t had a reaction from anything I’ve purchased there. Five Guys is where I go when I’m craving french fries and a burger. I ask for no bun and I’m good to go. Number 4 downtown has wonderful chips and guacamole and creme brule that I love! For sugary treats with the kids, handmade Dilly Bars from DQ West are always a hit.

Thanks to the popularity of being gluten free, grocery shopping isn’t too stressful. Places like Aldi have great gluten free products at good prices. And Cub and Hyvee have dedicated gluten free sections. I’ve found sticking to a meat and veggies style diet with rice and potatoes for your carbs is helpful. And a low emphasis on processed food is the best bang for my grocery buck.

The hardest part of having celiac disease for me is eating outside my home and eating with other people. Most of society places a huge emphasis on sharing food and eating with others. Part of keeping myself in good health means I have to be rude when it comes to food. I need to be first in line for a buffet so I can get food that is free from accidental cross contamination. I need to refuse a thoughtfully made plate of gluten free spaghetti from a friend that boiled in a pot used for regular spaghetti. I’m not able to trust relatives, friends and anyone else when it comes to food.

As a mom I love seeing my friends and I don’t mind going out to a bar that only has breaded and fried bar food. I can take care of myself and usually have a stash of food with me (Lara Bars are perfect for this). I am ok with getting only coffee with my husband for a quick Menards run date. It’s the time spent with people that’s important and I don’t want my immune system to get in the way of that.


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