Dear Gluten Dude: How do You Make New Friends When You're Gluten Free?

gluten free friends

As I clear some St. Patty’s Day cobwebs, thought it might be a good day for a Dear Gluten Dude.

Today’s letter comes from a fellow celiac who has moved to Hawaii with her husband and they are having a hard time making friends because the social scene is all about the food.

This is new territory for me but I would assume some of you have been in her shoes.

As always, any advice you can offer would be most appreciated.


Dear Gluten Dude,

Following up on the month of love, there’s been a lot of chatter about dealing with gluten free demands in a romantic relationship but I’m currently faced with a different social dilemma:

How do you make new friends when you’re gluten-free? That might sound basic or downright stupid but allow me to paint the bigger picture. I’ve recently relocated, because of my delightful hubby’s job, to an incredibly non-GF aware locale (Hawaii). Nearly every friendable couple we meet wants to “do dinner” and when we have to offer our only two reliable restaurant options, and a reason why, we are often denied. When we offer to let them select the restaurant, with the understanding that I will bring my own food, we are likewise denied.

I realize that those who aren’t interested in being accommodating of my trivial food requirements won’t likely make life-long besties but hey, we’re in a new town and need to make some friends.

We’ve tried everything from sporting endeavors to meet-ups of a cultural sort to try to find some new friends to hang with but the food thing seems to be a major hang up. Any tips for a couple that is completely on board with one partner’s need to be gluten-free to overcome the social stigma and find some new couply friends?


PS. Love the new site and don’t you ever, ever change your sarcastic self.

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20 thoughts on “Dear Gluten Dude: How do You Make New Friends When You're Gluten Free?”

  1. You could try frequenting restaurants that serve gluten-free food. I’m not sure where you are in Hawaii, but apparently Coconut Fish Cafe in Kihei on Maui serves great gluten free tacos! We are heading to Maui on Wednesday and I will be checking this place out! You could also try attending events put on by the celiac association or join a celiac support group ( I found this helpful site: Follow the food! Oh, and tell every random stranger that you meet that you are gluten free when you get the chance. That can lead to some connections. Good luck and good health to you!

  2. I’d start with acquaintances from work, honestly. We moved last year from the Great Lakes region to Florida last summer, so we’ve been in a similar situation, and we made our friends through my husband’s job.

    I found it easier, in some ways, because I started eating GF about 6 months before the move, and a lot of our friends were so accustomed to my non-GF eating that they would often forget. Now when we go out, the new friends we have made here are more accommodating, because its the only way they’ve ever known me. Also, the regional differences made it easier for me to find places to go — there are more restaurants that place an emphasis on fresh, local food here (as there should be in Hawaii — they grow amazing produce there year round!) that there was in Ohio, and a greater ethnic diversity here means there is more variety available, as there should be in Hawaii. Also, all the tourists with different eating requirements mean the restaurants are aware and accommodating — you’d probably find a similar situation there.

  3. And frankly, I can’t imagine even trying to be friends with people as inflexible as the people you were trying to socialize with.

  4. My personal experience has been to focus on what YOU like to do, or what you might like to do. Maybe you’ve always wanted to learn how to paint landscapes. Maybe you want to get into bird watching or hiking. There are literally clubs and groups for everyone. A quilting circle, a fantasy football league. Meantime, try placing an ad on craigslist groups, see if you can find fellow Celiacs.

    Here is a list of contacts in Hawaii, the list may not be current, but it’s worth a shot:

    Resource Unit
    City: Kaneohe (Oahu Island)

    Charlotte R. White
    44-021 Aumoana Way
    Kaneohe, HI 96744
    Charlotte R. White,
    Charlotte R. White,
    Updated: 14 Jan 1998
    Resource Unit
    City: Kealakekua (Hawaii Island)

    Kathryn Ogata
    PO Box 93
    Kealakekua, HI 96750
    Kathryn Ogata, keogata@ILHAWAII.NET
    Updated: 14 Apr 1999
    Resource Unit
    City: Kahului

    Amanda Schaefer
    Amanda Schaefer,
    Gluten Free Maui Blog
    Updated: 17 Mar 2010

    Also, you might try your local hospital, see if they know of a group. It’s tough, and you get tired of the ignorance people have toward the disease. But, most of the time that ignorance is merely lack of knowledge, without a stigma attached. People just don’t know.

    Best of luck to you!

  5. That sucks! If you’re comfortable hosting people, you could always try inviting them over to your place for dinner. Alternatives could be a movie / play / whatever, followed by dessert and coffee somewhere, so you don’t have to discuss safety early on in things.

    I also think that some of this depends on when you’re bringing the GF issue up – I have a friend who’s turned down dates with people on special diets (Paleo, etc.) when she’s worried that they’ll be preachy about it. Have you tried suggesting one of your safe restaurants without the explanation, or finalizing plans at another restaurant, then bringing up the BYO note once the details are settled? Celiac is *nothing* to be ashamed of, but since GF has gotten so much fad-related attention lately, it may be easier if it comes up later on in your acquaintance.

    Of course, you may just be meeting a bunch of inflexible folks, in which case the only consolation is that you’re removing the duds from the friendship pool early on in things. 🙂 Good luck!

  6. Aloha Julie may be of some help.

    Jules!! are you there? If she does not show up soon,
    we can shoot her an email. 🙂

    I once gave her all those celiac support group contact numbers in Hawaii too—and none were still valid, she reported.

    I find the best way to get past the dinner thing is to invite people to my house for dinner. No one turns down good cooking!

    Do not give up–someone is bound to take you up on your offer, hon!

  7. Ok I’m so new to this whole blog world, I’m not even sure where this comment will end up….but I need some help! I have three sons, two of which I feel sure are battling Celiac. They are ages 3 and 11 months. Their symptoms include: frequent acidic BMs that literally burn their skin off leaving open, bloody sores, occasional vomiting with no reasonse explanation, pretty severe bloating after meals, daily complaints of a stomache ache and headache (my three year old, obviously the other can’t communicate), rash on legs, and both of them were given a “failure to thrive” diagnosis at some point due to weight loss/failure to properly gain. My three year old has even had a “partially positive” blood test (whatever the heck that means), but the doc isn’t convinced hemis symptoms are bad enough to do the biopsy. So…do I push for this diagnosis? Or do I just take matters into my own hands and go gluten free? THANKS SO MUCH! And good luck to you all. It’s tough feeling so helpless as a mom, and it seems I can’t find anyone to hear me out about this!

    1. Rebekah…get yourself to your pediatrician immediately and if that doesn’t do the trick, try to find a GI in your area who is highly recommended. I won’t offer any medical advice, but please don’t hesitate.

      1. Oh my, In the world where 2nd opinions are the norm it seems i would switch docs and or ask for another GI doctor. I read that the squeaky wheel gets the oil so push for it if you want it done, and the books seem to suggest pushing for a biopsy it helps to confirm a diagnosis. I have a half positive diagnosis. I have tested positive for the endomysial antibodies, (note here an earlier celiac screen was negative) and so it is like a yes without the biopsy confirmation, I have to wait for that one. but check with your doctor about your sons bloodwork and ask for the bloodwork results, my doc printed them off for me but there may be different rules for that in the USA.. Best wishes.

        1. Thank you Lisa! We have an appointment with a new pediatric GI April 1st! The other doc has sent all my son’s records to the new one, so I’m hopeful we will get this diagnosed. Hugo (my son) had a negative test too, then a second one was positive. I don’t understand all the science behind it, so it makes no sense to me that he is “partially positive”?!
          My husband wants to know what I’ll do if a biopsy comes back negative since I’m so convinced it is celiac?! Haha! You guys have given me confidence that I’m doing the right thing. Thanks so much! And good luck to you Lisa!

  8. Thanks for your reply! We are seeing a pediatric GI now, but I’m not sure she gets it. I just don’t want to be the crazy mom who is trying to convince everyone her kids are sick…but, they are! I’m going to try to research someone new to see. Thanks again!

    1. Failure to thrive, all those symptoms….. and a positive DX?
      There is no such thing as “partially positive” for celiac–that’s like “kinda pregnant”!!! Positive means positive.

      This doc doesn’t see this as celiac?? oh hon–!!

      You have to see a NEW GI DOC …..ASAP!!!!!!!!

  9. These are my thoughts exactly! I just wanted some opinions of people who have dealt with this. Why don’t people take this more seriously? My middle son has had such a difficult three years, he just seems miserable. And now my youngest…ugh! I can’t let this go on any longer! Thank you so much for the confidence boost that I’m on the right track. 🙂

    1. You’re doing the right thing, Mom! Please get another GI doc’s opinion ASAP.

      Where do you live? (just the city and state) or if you feel uncomfortable saying it publicly, just tell the GDude privately via email and he can email me.

      Together, we can try to help you find the best celiac-savvy doc in the area.

    2. Please website: Critical for U Rebekah to start the children on this program. I’m celiac & it worked for me & grandkiddies. It is Fntastic & so is the book by the same name. Blessings💥

  10. We live in Abingdon, Virginia. It’s a pretty small town in the southwest region. We’re willing to travel to see someone who would help though. You become accustomed to doing that when living in this part of the country! Thanks SO much. I appreciate your interest and help!

  11. I’m going to get started on this ASAP! Thanks again, and again!! I’m sure I’ll be visiting this site very often in the future. Best wishes to y’all!

  12. Which island are you located on? I’m on Maui, and I’m thinking of putting together a support group. I hope you’ve found some friends since March, but if you’re on Maui let me know.

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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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