Diet or Food Allergy?

A couple of weeks ago I was at a conference and I’d brought the cooler of food.  You know, the one that you pack full of different snacks and easy to take with you meals since you have no idea when you’ll be able to get a meal that’s actually safe for you.  I’ve even bought a cooler with the car and wall plug in so that I can keep it cold while traveling in the car and then switch to the wall plug in the hotel room.  You’ve probably done it many a time yourself.

Yet, a couple of days of hemp milk protein drinks, Nonuttin’ granola bars, fruit and carrots was starting to get a little stale so I decided to walk up the street from the conference facility to The Noodle Box where I knew I could get a gluten free meal after researching them online at The Celiac Scene:  Full disclosure here:  since this is not a place I can normally eat with the rest of my family due to their food allergies, this was also my opportunity to load up on peanuts in the satay sauce plus add shrimp to my meal.  Both big no-no’s in my house and ingredients I only indulge in if I won’t be going home to my family that day.

Because of the conference, there was a big line up to order, it was really noisy with so many people in there and loud music but it smelled delicious and, I saw that I could request certain menu items on the board as gluten free.  So imagine my surprise when I asked for the peanut satay dish (bring it on) with added shrimp (yum) to be made gluten free she asked me this question:  “Diet or Allergy?”

It took me a moment.  I was tested as Celiac and it was negative but gluten still affects me in so many lovely ways so really the proper term these days is Non-Celiac Gluten Sensitivity (NCGS).  But I tell most people I’m gluten intolerant since I’m also lactose intolerant and it makes more sense to them so is expedient.  And Celiac disease and NCGS are not food allergies anyway so should I answer diet?  But if I answer diet, does that mean less care for cross-contamination will be taken?  Aaack!  My brain was on fire.  It also really wasn’t the time to educate the employee what a food allergy is and how so many people these days use the word allergy for so many things that aren’t allergies.  So I blurted out the word, “Allergy”, paid, and then sat down to ponder.

Really, it’s an amazing thing that The Noodle Box is offering gluten free items and has trained their staff to ask about sensitivity – even if it caused me severe thought stress.  I ended up having a lovely peanut and shrimp filled meal with enough for leftovers for that evening.  I felt great and did not get “glutenized” so I guess I said the right thing.  I spoke with someone else at the conference who’d just finished traveling as a Celiac and had a terrible time with restaurants in the US not having a gluten free menu or any sort of staff training when she asked about gluten.

So I guess I don’t have to be the allergy education police everywhere I go and I need to take the time to be thankful that I have choices.  But darn, if it still doesn’t stick in my craw a bit because gluten is not by definition a food allergy.  Ah well, next time…  And thanks to The Noodle Box for making it work so I will have a next time.

Alana Elliott is the Founder and President of Libre Naturals (formerly Nonuttin’ Foods), a gluten free and allergy friendly food company she founded in response to her family’s many food allergies and immune disorders.  Please check out Libre Naturals at: