How To Survive Being a Friend of a Celiac

celiac friend
Dude Note: To honor Celiac Awareness Month and to help raise awareness of our disease, I will be attempting 31 blog posts in 31 days. My goal is simple: to make most of them not suck. If you’ve got ideas for a good post or if you’d like to guest blog, by all means, contact me. Your input is more than welcome. And if you know anybody with celiac disease, give them some extra lovin’ this month. They deserve it.

Ok…we’re coming down the homestretch of Celiac Awareness Month.

I’ve managed to write 19 of the 21 blog posts on my own thus far. The only exceptions were a post from one of my Dudettes (My Daddy Has Celiac Disease) and one from Mrs. Dude (I Never Thought).

So we’ve covered celiac disease from a child’s perspective. And we’ve covered it from a spouse’s perspective.

What’s left?

Well, let me introduce you to David, a very good friend of mine. We had him and his wife over for drinks a few nights ago, and he said it would be interesting to view celiac disease from a friend’s perspective.

I thought it was brilliant and he had the below post in my inbox by 6 the next morning. And I swear to you, I did not pay him for his services. 🙂



How To Survive Being a Friend of a Celiac Sufferer

celiac friendshipThe above title of this blog post is not accurate.  I know, strange way to open a blog entry, but it’s true.  Allow to me explain.

Being a friend of Gluten Dude I remember quite distinctly the first time we engaged socially after he was diagnosed. Dude had let us know that he would like us to come over for drinks and snacks and after a few he regaled us with his journey through celiac. I was both mesmerized and a bit sad. My friend of all these years was afflicted with this insidious disease that could attack at any moment, brought on by a mere crumb or fallen morsel.

As he educated us, my mind interpreted his restrictions as a confinement of the pleasures of life and I left that night being both bonded with my friend but simultaneously pitying him.

As good friends, we wanted to reciprocate the invite so we invited Dude and Mrs. Dude over to our house for drinks and snacks. My wife took great pains to try to purchase foods that were marked gluten free and laid out a spread.

Unfortunately more than 70% of the food we put out was too questionable for Gluten Dude to partake in so all night he ate carrots and rice crackers, which to me tasted like packing peanuts. More pity for my friend, and a feeling of hopelessness that we would never be able to break Dude from the confines of his “house imprisonment”  and his world of gluten free that he had created under his own roof.

But over the next few months, and the more we ‘hung’ with Gluten Dude, something interesting happened.

We consciously or subconsciously, not sure which, stopped trying so hard. We stopped trying to OVER-research foods and restaurants that would be appropriate for Dude.  We stopped agonizing over which house we would be going over to or how Dude might feel if all he had to eat was carrots.

But most of all, I stopped thinking of Dude as my friend with Celiac and instead went back to thinking of him as my friend…someone that makes our lives better for knowing.

I also realized that although Celiac is an important cause for him, it didn’t define who the Dude was.  HE defined himself.

With that relaxed state of mind we invited The Dudes over for our annual Halloween Party. Quite casually we set up a Gluten free station with the foods we knew the Dude could enjoy.

In doing so we created an environment where Dude could sit back and enjoy the party and put Celiac worries on hold for a night.  It was special for us.  Special because our good friend could be our good friend, and not the man I originally pitied.

As I write this I fondly think back to just last night where we partook of Friday night drinks and snacks at the Dude’s house. It was the usual fair of crazy drinks and snacks, generously passed out by G. Dude.

But they have long ago ceased to be Gluten Free snacks and have just become snacks…just as my good friend ceased to be a Celiac sufferer and has just become my friend.

Being a friend of a someone with celiac is not about surviving the friendship, it is about thriving and celebrating who the person is and the value they create in your life.

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35 thoughts on “How To Survive Being a Friend of a Celiac”

  1. GD,

    This is exactly how it should be with awesome friends (and family)! Great write up and interesting perspective by GDF. Wonderful addition to your month of blog posts.

    By the way, next time you have drinks and snacks, I’d like an invite. =)

    Melissa (GFFAF)

  2. Eloquently said…it’s funny…I have been GF for a month now..and my kids will still offer me a cupcake or fried chicken or something that is a definite NO-NO and then when I say ‘I’m sorry honey, that is not something I can have…’ You can see it in their face…they feel sorry for me…what they don’t realize is there are soo many options for may not be as “Quick & Easy” as what they are having..but I’m not starving.. lol This was a very good post to read and I think I will share it with my family 🙂

  3. What a great friend. My own journey involved a co-worker who embraced my diagnosis and helped me to learn to cook and eat gluten-free. She was my biggest support and just a year after my diagnosis, she learned that her own Down Syndrome son was Celiac. As we cried together, she suddently said, “My journey with you, was a blessing so that I could be prepared for my own son’s diagnosis”.

    In the 8 years since my diagnosis, I no longer think of Celiac as a disease. For me, it is just a dfferent way of eating.

  4. GD, A friend of mine asked if she could cook me a birthday dinner next week, and said, “I’ll make spaghetti!” geez, ….I have tried to “‘hisplain Lucy.” She hasn’t graduated to understanding celiac disease yet. I don’t know if I’ll ever get to the point of friendship as the two of you, but she does have a big heart.

    Your friend is awesome and truly genuine.

    Here is what Chef Cook e-mailed back:

    From: Jacob Cook
    To: Julie
    Sent: Friday, May 18, 2012 4:53 PM
    Subject: Re: celiac disease and dining at Ruth Chris

    I would love to make this request possible. If you would like we can sit down and go through all of the items that are gluten free on our menu and make sure no cross contamination comes up. I would be more than happy to make this possible for. Please let me know what I can do for you.

    Jacob cook
    Executive chef
    Ruths chris steak house
    Mauna lani

  5. Such a great post! That is really how the friendship and knowledge should evolve. This post and your friendship is Inspiring to all who are gluten free and “suffering” in their relationships with friends. 🙂


  6. What a loving testimony to your friendship! I think you are both lucky dudes. That “special GF station” they created? Made me tear up. Too cool.

    Recently, our best friends learned the ropes to make me a safe, multi-course dinner. I burst into tears at the time they spent and how sweet they were to create this labor of love. They asked many questions and read labels like pros. The irony of my story is that I am the gourmet cook of the bunch and all the dinner parties I threw came to a halt when I was so ill for years. I felt so lost and a bit abandoned, but it was not intentional, I know.

    Life is returning to normal and I can enjoy food once more, so, they wanted to cook for ME and hubs.

    I gave them flexible cutting boards to use and they went through each step with me beforehand. They borrowed a few things from my kitchen to use. We brought the champagne and my killer flourless chocolate cake with ganache and we had a grand time. It was the beginning of my social life returning after being in hell for 3 years.

    It doesn’t have to be that hard for us all to resume dining and partying with good friends. Simple precautions will make it just fine! I had no ill effects and all of us felt like a huge burden or fear had been somehow lifted. I was not the “celiac” that could not eat with anyone anymore. I was just ME!

    Thanks for sharing your friendship story with us!

  7. My hubby and my daughter have to be gluten free. This has been a hard road for both of them. She starts Jr high next year and at her age to be different is like a death sentence. Hard on the hubby because he does not want to give up drinks and “yummy food”. Recently his best friend was at our house and got on to me about being the food nazi. He tells me I am being unfair to my hubby.

    1. The Gluten Dude

      Aaaargh! What was your response to your hubby’s “best friend”?

      Sorry to hear about your daughter 🙁

    2. Vanessa,
      It is a huge misconception that being GF means no longer having “yummy foods” and drinks. You are not a gluten nazi; you’re saving their lives.

      While it is inconvenient at times because we cannot depend on fast food (which is full of fat and cholesterol anyway), I can assure you that all the yummy foods gluten free-ers once enjoyed can still be enjoyed.

      What is the definition of “yummy”? Pizza, chips, wings…our fun, “junky” foods?
      Honestly, these foods are not healthy for us anyway, but who doesn’t want them once and awhile? :>)

      Well, they can be made and enjoyed!

      Filet mignon, lobster, burgers and fries, twice- baked potatoes, four cheese pizza with broccoli and garlic, fettucine alfredo, clams and white wine sauce, BBQ ribs, chocolate cake, almond pound cake with fresh whipped cream and berries, banana nut muffins, Apple pie, cheesecake, dip and veggies, nachos, quesadillas….I eat these foods all the time!!. I make them. You can too. Easy peasy.
      No gluten involved.

      (1) Once you learn how to sub for the breaded items and find a few good replacement pastas, you’re good to go.

      Want meatloaf and meatballs with sauce?
      Take a slice of GF bread and grind it in a mini-chopper, add some dried basil, oregano, thyme and garlic and you’ve got seasoned breadcrumbs. Now, just use your regular recipes!

      Try Tinkyada brown rice penne pasta (cook it 13 mins. only— trust me) or BiAglut corn pasta (just follow the directions exactly) and try some Chebe or Pamela’s or King Arthur GF mixes. Jules Shepherd’s pizza dough gets rave reviews.

      (2) Find a decent flour mix that works for you This will become your base for baking bread, rolls, pizza dough and muffins and pancakes.
      Gluten GFree Girl’s basic sandwich loaf is very good.If you cannot bake, try Rudi’s breads.try Against the Grain pizzas.
      Just don’t OVERDO these foods because they still have CARBS and calories. I gained weight fast once I started absorbing again.

      (3) Check out Peter and Kelli Bronski’s Gluten GFree Artisinal Cooking, Gluten Free Girl’s blogs, The Gluten Free Diva, Elana’s Pantry, Jules Shepherd, Mary Capone, Living Without Magazine, etc. These people can get you started on GF cooking ideas.

      All your recipes can be adapted.
      There is no reason for a gluten-free person to feel deprived!!!.

      There is life after celiac. There’s a great, HEALTHY life.:>)

      My doctor says his celiac patients eat better than any of his patients because we are not eating the one thing that is making people fat and killing them (not just us celiacs) —refined wheat flour, fried foods, and packaged foods full of dyes and preservatives..

      Once I got past being so ill I could not eat and then started to get hungry because my gut was healing, I had a brief “holy crap, what am I gonna eat”, moment and then, I realized MOST foods are naturally gluten-free: meat, fish, poultry, eggs, dairy, nuts, green leafy veggies, citrus fruits, berries, avocado and other fruits.

      THESE foods are full of folate, B-12, vitamin C, which some people claim we “lose” when we go GF. That’s absurd. They say because we stop eating “fortified bread and cereal” that we lose those vitamins. Hogwash! Take a good GF multivitamin and eat veggies.
      My childhood friend has avoided all these grainy foods for 25 years and she is healthier than anyone I know, keeping her MS at bay and running in the Boston Marathon.

      If you miss cereal, eat GF Rice Krispies and use coconut milk and you will double the calcium of cow’s milk.

      There are some handy, tasty and nutritious GF snacks available too.
      You can try hummus or salsa and corn chips, low fat mozzarella sticks, Lara bars, Cozy Shack rice pudding, So Delicious Coconut ice cream, etc.

      Sorry to go all “foodie” on you, (LOL) but I am trying to tell you all—It’s not impossible to eat well gluten free. It’s not a death sentence.

      Cheers! IH

  8. Dude–your friend is awesome!! We don’t have ANY friends left in our town due to our diet, and our family doesn’t even bother inviting us to family Holidays that involve food (they all do!) because of our GF status. It’s pathetic. I had a (now former) friend accuse me of being a hypochondriac, starving my kids to get them so skinny and then calling me a food Nazi. Our journey has been rough and less than inspiring. So ice to read that there are some civilized and compassionate people still in existence.

      1. The Gluten Dude

        All 4 of you are celiac? And you’ve go no support from family and friends??

        Unreal…simply unreal. Sorry 🙁 🙁

    1. Katieb,

      I am sorry, hon!!! That is just wrong and my heart goes out to you. I have felt like the “leper” myself, even having some friends and family members stop calling when I was ill. It was heartbreaking to have people shun me like that. It still hurts. Sadly, I have seen it happen many times to newly DXed people.

      By any chance— do live in upstate NY?!! Because if you do, your family is invited to my house next holiday. I am not kidding. :>)
      Hugs, IH

      1. Thanks IrishHeart!!! I would really try to do a get together if we lived closer–really—simply because you asked 🙂

        We are in the Northwest Mountains though. Maybe we should think about opening some sort of Wayward GF Restaurant for the rejected and misunderstood that is only open during the ‘food’ holidays??

        1. Sounds like a plan! I have offered to take in all the Gee-freers because they got tired of getting glutened (or made fun of) at family gatherings.

          The irony of all this is….these family members are likely gluten intolerants themselves.

        2. Amy -The Quirky Gluten Free Runner

          That sounds like a grand plan. I’m sure you’d have a HUGE waiting list!

          We always have to pack food when we go on road trips or to visit family. Basically, just to be safe and know we have stuff. I have left a loaf of bread before at family member’s home and they call on our way home freaking out that I might starve without that loaf. . .and inwardly I’m wondering if they think they’ll “go celiac” if they have a loaf of GF bread in the house!

          So many things that our society says are acceptable foods are just plain horrible for us as a whole. DH and I don’t eat deep fried stuff any longer. It makes us both sick. oh, he can eat some fries here and there, but all in all we don’t eat “that” way any longer.

          I hope your family members get a hit upside their head to wake themselves up. As one person on the Facebook Celiac group says, “it’s like eating rat poison, like eating razor blades, why would you want to do that to me????”

  9. VERY awesome friend you have there! I loved reading his perspective over the whole GF thing. 🙂

    Also, verrrrrry sneaky clever making me solve a math problem in order to post. I need to send my daughter this way… 😉

      1. They are probably good for us then :>) but just do not do those that begin:

        “A train leaves Chicago carrying 32 passengers at 4:16 PM while one leaves New York at 4:30 PM carrying 96 and they intersect…..

        and that’s when my eyes used to glaze over in math class and make Irish all discomboobulated….and I became an English major.

        See, this one below right now?…it’s 2 + 4
        Oh man, I got this!!
        Just my speed. LOL

  10. Love your friend. I have had a few rough moments with friends not getting it. It is a “huge moment” when they do and also a “huge moment” when you feel comfortable once again hanging out with your friends…. And it is just as it once was.

  11. My wonderful mother-in-law had celiac the entire time I knew her – though she was diagnosed until she was in her 50s. We lived with her and my father-in-law for about 9 months at one point, and I really got to know her and understand the gluten free lifestyle. It was such a blessing to be able to cook for her, and I was able to make her some of her favorite dishes, which she had simply abandoned when she learned she had celiac. But, feeding her and finding ways to make food that made her feel nostalgic, happy and special was only a teensy, tiny part of our relationship. She taught me so many wonderful things, and was such a wonderful woman. I enjoyed her friendship immensely. When we took my oldest son off of gluten 3 years ago, she was such a valuable support and source of even more information than I already knew.

    Sadly, she left us 2 years ago this month, after a year long fight with breast cancer. I will always be convinced that the cancer was caused and exacerbated by the 50+ years of damage to her body from eating gluten, and from the malnutrition her body suffered as a result. She was my first gluten free friend and I will always treasure her place in my life.

    Thank you for sharing your story with us!

  12. This made me tear up. I’ve lost many relationships, friendships and romantic, partly due to my celiac disease. It was too much for some to handle and many people didn’t understand. I was a drag, unable to keep up with the social scene.. I had to cancel plans because I didn’t feel well and a “friend” once replied with, “you always say that.” I am however, a young woman in my early 20’s and hope to amount the bad experiences to immaturity and ignorance (on both my part and my friend’s part). The failed relationships were telling of the shallowness and quality (or lack of) my friendships possessed.

    Celiac disease taught me to be the kind of friend and partner that doesn’t drag others down and that I would want for yourself. I’ve learned to walk away from the people who drain the life out of me and cause feelings of guilt and inadequacy. I’ve learned to value the people who have seen my naked soul and darkest moments but don’t define me by it.

    There are people who will define you by the disease, and those who will see you for who you really are. Surrounding myself with the people who see me apart from the disease have helped me discover and also thrive as the person I truly am.

  13. Its like I was staring at my own life for the first year. My family went to great pains to make gluten free food. I was worried that I would get sick. I now just bring my snacks as well as the wine and cheese. I make my own snack section and now I am able to enjoy the company. If I go with friends out to lunch and all I can order is a large salad, I let people know its OKAY. I’m not suffering but enjoying their company. Ive evolved and let people know its okay and its about friendship. I don’t think they have quite got it yet, but we are all learning. You have a wonderful friend.

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Who I am. And who I'm not.

Who I am. And who I'm not.

I AM someone who's been gluten-free since 2007 due to a diagnosis of severe celiac disease. I'm someone who can steer you in the right direction when it comes to going gluten-free. And I'm someone who will always give you the naked truth about going gluten free.

I AM NOT someone who embraces this gluten-free craziness. I didn’t find freedom, a better life or any of that other crap when I got diagnosed. With all due respect to Hunter S. Thompson, I found fear and loathing of an unknown world. But if I can share my wisdom, tell my stories and make the transition easier on you, I’ve done my job.

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