5 Things NOT To Say To A Celiac

I’m sure all Celiacs have heard their fair share of rude, ignorant, or just plain weird remarks. Unless they are personally affected by Celiac disease, most people are clueless as to what gluten even is. I’m used to dealing with confusion from people who are new to this whole “gluten free diet” thing and am happy to explain to anyone who is legitimately curious. Most people sincerely want to know what I can eat or what living with a special diet is like. Keep in mind that most likely nothing in the following list will genuinely offend a Celiac, but may very well make you look uncaring or uninformed. If you’re reading this post, I’m assuming you want to avoid this impression, so without further adieu, I present:

5 Things You Should Never Say To A Celiac

  • “That must STINK. I could NEVER eat like that.”
  • For anyone with Celiac disease, eating “like that” is not a choice. Celiac disease is an auto-immune disorder, meaning that when a Celiac patient consumes gluten, the body attacks itself and causes damage to the digestive system. This can produce a very wide array of symptoms, and in severe undiagnosed/untreated cases, it is theoretically possible for the damage to the digestive system to lead to death due to malabsorption issues. Telling a Celiac patient that you could “never do that” would be like saying to a diabetic “Man, am I glad I don’t have to stab myself with a needle on a daily basis. That must be awful!”

  • “So can you eat a sandwich? How about cake? Pasta?”
  • Assuming that your friend with Celiac has already explained to you that they can’t have wheat, to put it bluntly, this will make you look like an idiot. It’s just common sense to realize that bread/cake/pasta is made of flour, and I would really hope that the general population knows that flour is made by grinding wheat.

  • “It’s OK, this recipe only called for half a cup of flour. You should be fine.”
  • While a person who decides to try to cut out wheat to lose weight may not have a problem with eating it in moderation, anyone on a gluten-free diet due to Celiac disease can not have ANY gluten. I’ve heard the effects of gluten to a Celiac compared to poison ivy. Obviously, a lot is bad, but a little is not something that’ll just be “ok”.

  • “Can’t you just peel the meat off the sandwich and eat that?”
  • See the answer to question #3. The fact that the meat has come in contact with bread is enough to make it inedible for a Celiac. No matter how much this should happen to frustrate or inconvenience you, we really can’t just peel the meat off the bread, or scrape the cheese off the pizza, or eat the filling out of the burrito. And besides, really?! Who wants to eat cheese off the top of a pizza for dinner? (Yes, I have been asked that exact question multiple times before.) Just because we can’t eat everything you eat doesn’t mean that we don’t eat actual meals.

  • “Well, then where CAN you eat?!” (insert heavy sigh and/or eye rolling here)
  • I understand that sometimes you may end up eating at a different restaurant than you wanted just to accommodate me, but PLEASE don’t make me feel bad for having a food allergy. Believe me, I *wish* I could eat anything and everything. It’s hard enough to have to give up some of my very favorite foods forever without having people make me feel burdensome. Thankfully, this example is just that: an example. I am blessed to have friends and family who are very understanding and are careful not to make me feel this way. I felt that I had to include this one, though, if I was going to make a thorough list of “things not to say”. Don’t make your Celiac friends feel bad for something they are helpless about.

When it comes down to it, the bottom line is that people with Celiac disease are still people. Celiac does not define us – it’s just a very small part in the picture of who we are. All we want is to live life to the fullest, just like you.