8 extremely important tips on how you can help your friend with celiac disease.
Before you read the tips:
“Thank you!”, you are a great friend.
You support a friend when most people are afraid to host him or her and he or she is afraid to eat out.
Education is the foundation – you should find out what it means to have celiac disease, what its symptoms are. What products are allowed and not allowed on a gluten-free diet and how to avoid cross-contamination of food.
The bigger your knowledge, the more support a friend of yours will be able to receive. A little bit of additional patience on your part may be very helpful.
2. Prepare food together.
Write the menu, go shopping together. For a person who does not have to be on a diet gluten free shopping may seem strange… Reading labels, taking every product into your hand and checking if it is actually safe, looking for gluten-free products and gluten-free novelties. It takes more time, but you can be sure that the right choice has been made.
Cooking together is a great fun. You will learn how to prepare a meal safe for a person with celiac disease. Your friend will feel safe because you will discuss and prepare everything together. Some meals are naturally gluten-free. Sometimes replacing one ingredient and ensure that cross-contamination does not occur in the kitchen is enough.
3. Is your friend going to be your guest?
If you invite your friend to your house, call and ask him/her how s/he would like it. Does s/he want to bring some food or maybe you shall prepare the meals together.
If you want to surprise him/her, buy products that are safe and are labeled as a gluten-free product. Show him/her what you got and decide together how you want these products to be served. Unpacking the product earlier may cause gluten contamination.
Are you wondering how such a contamination is possible?
Let’s assume that you are preparing a pizza: You got a gluten-free flour, you made a dough in a bowl (the bowl may be washed insufficiently and even this makes a risk of contamination). Even if the bowl was thoroughly washed and scalded, it turns out that you are using a wooden roll with leftovers of your flour on it. The ingredients you put on the pizza may also contain gluten.
Another example: you want to make sandwiches for your friend. You take out gluten-free rolls from the packaging, put them on your chopping board and cut them (there may be invisible crumbs of bread on your board and the product becomes contaminated). Using the same knife you used to cut your bread a moment ago, or spreading the butter on the rolls with the knife you used to spread it on your sandwiches puts your friend at risk (there may be crumbs of your bread in the butter). And even if you put a gluten-free ham on a sandwich, it may turn out that the conditions for preparing a gluten-free sandwich were not completely gluten-free. When your friend comes, s/he will ask exactly about the process of meal preparation. S/he will usually hear not to worry and that everything is gluten-free but it may turn out that the final product is not safe due to contaminants. These kind of situation is a standard, so it is better to wait and prepare food together. Do not put your gluten-free friend in an awkward situation. I’m sure s/he will be grateful.
It happens very often too that gluten-free cookies are placed on the same plate next to cookies containing gluten and a person with celiac diseases cannot eat them anymore! They are contaminated with gluten.
4. In a restaurant.
If you invite your friend to a restaurant, look for a place with a gluten-free menu. Tell him/her about it so s/he will call the restaurant to make sure whether s/he will be able to eat with you.
5. Do not get upset.
If you have prepared a meal and your gluten-free friend is asking you dozen of questions obn how the meal was prepared and whether the pot was really clean, whether you added spices, whether you cut it with a clean knife, etc. it is not about you, it is about your friend’s health.
It is surely very hard for your friend to reject the food you’ve worked so hard on, but do not get upset, just listen and try to understand.
6. A packaged snack.
Provide your friend with a packaged snack. S/he will not have to ask questions on whether the food is really safe, if it was placed near your bread and how it was prepared. In order to buy gluten-free products, you do not have to go to special stores, such foods are now available in grocery stores or even at petrol stations. Buy a packaged meal.
7. Foods as a gift.
Do not give gifts in the form of home made gluten-free baked goods to a person on a gluten-free diet, there may be cross-contamination in your kitchen! Your friend will appreciates your effort but eating such a meal may be very dangerous for him/her and can cause very painful ailments.
8. Do not offer your food to your gluten-free friend.
Every “gluten-free food” prepared by friends or family that are not on a gluten-free diet will contain gluten. Suggest your gluten-free friend to have his/her own food. For a person with celiac disease dealing with ignorant friends and relatives can be very stressful
Do not ask what may happen if your friend eats gluten.
Do not tell your friend that eating a little will not hurt him or her.
Do not lecture him/her about the gluten-free diet.
If you do not know whether the product you offer to your friend is 100% gluten-free, do not offer it, do not encourage them tasting it.
Do not ask questions that seem like you doubt in your friend’s diagnosis and treatment. If you have difficulties in understanding why a gluten-free diet is the only available method for treating celiac disease, read about it.
Do you really want to impress your gluten-free friend? Maybe this is a special person you would like to get to know better? Just ask what s/he likes eating, what you shall buy, just talk.