Cross-

Contamination

& Celiac

What is Cross-Contamination?

Cross-contamination, or cross-contact, is the accidental contamination of gluten with gluten-free food. For example, using the same knife and butter to spread butter on whole wheat toast, and then on your gluten-free toast. This would result in cross-contamination. 

Beyond Celiac shares, “There is even a risk of cross-contact before ingredients make it to the kitchen, such as during the growing, processing, and manufacturing processes.” This is one of the biggest reasons why it is important to do your research on the companies that make the food. This is also why we work with a 100% dedicated gluten free and allergen free co-packing facility called GF Blends.

When we first were diagnosed, it didn’t seem like that big of a deal to “cheat” or eat food that was cross-contaminated but over time we realized that it was a huge factor in why we still didn’t feel good on a regular basis.  

Continuing to eat gluten, especially if you have celiac, will increase your risk for other autoimmune disorders, and it increases your risk of getting cancer, and a myriad of other problems.

For those who have celiac disease it takes a minimal amount of gluten to wreak havoc on your intestines and body. Cross-contamination is one of the biggest challenges that we face. Even 50 milligrams of gluten can cause internal damage, with or without symptoms.

Sometimes, when someone in our family is “glutened” (meaning they have consumed some amount of gluten) they only seem to be more moody, and we have learned how to gently ask if they accidentally had gluten. 

Mood swings, additional stress, stomach discomfort, diarrhea or constipation, along with canker sores are all common symptoms of cross-contamination.

Why Cross-Contamination is something to be on the lookout for

In Your Shared Cooking Space

Things to Be Aware of Cooking at Home with Gluten in Your gluten-free kitchen

When we first started eating gluten free this was a steep learning curve, particularly in kitchens that were mostly full of gluten. Over time, we started to see that there were many little things we could adjust to make it easier.

Just know that it gets better and keep doing your best, with time and experience it will come naturally to you and your family.

This list may seem overwhelming at first but you can start by taking one step at a time. Every step counts and you can do it!

Common Contributors to Cross-Contamination

The key thing with cross-contamination is to have designated gluten-free cooking space, utensils and pans fully separate from your other items with gluten.

Cooking Pans

One of the first things we invested in was new cooking pans. Stainless steel pans are great because you can cook glutinous items without it being absorbed into the nonstick coating. If you want to use cookware with nonstick coating we encourage you to get a separate pan set, in a really fun color, so that you know those pans are gluten free.

Utensils

We also make sure that if we are cooking glutinous items at the same time as gluten-free items like pasta, to have separate utensils and set them on opposite sides of the stove top on the side that the pan is on. Over time, it became easier to cook gluten-free noodles for everyone once we found noodles that everyone liked. This is however more expensive, but it made it easier on our family.

Strainers

Speaking of pasta, don’t forget to use different strainers for each type of noodle. You can also strain the gluten-free pasta first and then the glutinous pasta. This way you can use the same metal strainer. Something else to keep in mind is that GF pasta typically takes longer to cook than glutinous pasta, so start the GF pasta first!

Cutting Boards & Countertops

When using cutting boards be sure to always use a clean cutting board. Similar to why you wouldn’t want to cut veggies on the same board as raw meat, you don’t want to cut anything on top of a board that was used to cut gluten (unless you give it a full wash in between). 

Always wipe down your countertop before you cook, and make sure that there are no crumbs around that can sneak into your food and inadvertently make you sick.

Get a New Toaster

Yep, getting a new toaster can be a hassle, but it can save you stress and cross-contamination. In our house we have a toaster for both GF toast and glutinous toast. You may want to put them on separate sides or find a way to mark it so that your family doesn’t use the wrong toaster. 

One of our family members drew a skull and crossbones on the glutinous toaster so that it was obviously “poisonous” to use if they wanted to enjoy GF toast. Putting each toaster in a cake pan can also reduce the spread of crumbs, making it easy to have both toasters in the same kitchen.

Be careful with condiments, spreads and dips 

We switched to using condiments that squirt out of the bottle rather than require a knife to spread. This has cut down significantly on additional cross-contamination. 

For the things that we still spread, like butter, jelly, or peanut butter we have separate GF items that are clearly marked so that we can ensure we are not consuming contaminated items. 

With dips, we always look to see if there is a spoon to take the dip out and put it on the plate or if people are directly dipping their crackers or chips in. This is not as tricky at home but it can be tricky when socializing with others. Sometimes we bring our own dip and crackers so we can participate but not worry about getting or feeling sick.

A Specific Place for Gluten – Gluten Drawer

Some of our family members have a place that is specific for the glutinous snacks, bread, treats, baked items and more, and the rest of the kitchen is gluten free. This makes it easy to know which items are gluten free or not. With a large family this may look more like a GF drawer depending on the number of people who eat gluten free. Overall, don’t be afraid to try new ways of organizing your kitchen and pantry so that you can work out how to support yourself and your family.  

While cross-contamination can be overwhelming to understand at first, you will get better at recognizing it, and managing it. In the meantime do your best, and try to have fun with it. We learned that joking about things helped make it a lot easier to adjust.

Cross-Contamination While Dining Out

One of the biggest challenges is dining out. Eating gluten free while dining out has gotten significantly easier in the past few years, particularly since 2007. 

The key here is to do your research beforehand. Most restaurants have gluten-free options, and it is always best to call ahead and ask about the options available. 

Finding restaurants that focus on providing gluten-free options with a separate prep area and fryer are always a better sign that the risk of cross-contamination is lower. 

Overall, when you eat out you always run the risk of cross-contamination, but that doesn’t mean you can’t try it and find things that work for you and your family.

What to Do If You Experience Symptoms of Cross-Contamination?

Signs & Symptoms of Cross Contamination

Cross-contamination symptoms are the worst! 

The most common symptom that we experience is random mood swings, anger and irritability. Most of the time these mood swings are very irrational and about things we usually don’t get upset by. 

Other common symptoms may include headaches, canker sores, heartburn, and an inflamed or bloated stomach. It’s important to note that it might take a while to recognize when you experience cross-contamination, and the symptoms can evolve over time, this is based on the 15 years of experience we have had.

So what do we do when we get “poisoned by gluten”?

Typically, when we get glutened we focus on doing a few things to feel better. Even though there is not much you can do when you have symptoms, there will be a few things to take the edge off. Taking the time to discover how you respond and what you need to feel better will be important.  

A few things that help us feel better include: drinking lots of water, taking a nap, and writing down what we accidentally ate, so that we can avoid eating it again in the future. 

Sometimes we also take Gas-X (strips or pills) to help with gas pains. Other times we have to find an outlet to get our anger and frustrations out, we encourage you to find an outlet that helps you feel better without taking your emotions out on another person. Exercise, meditation, journaling or other forms of self-care are good options for this.

One of the key things around irritability is to recognize that oftentimes family members and friends notice we are more irritable than normal sooner than we realize. If we are willing to realize it ourselves, then not only can we let things go easier but we can recognize that the anger pulsing through our veins is coming from the gluten we consumed and not because we are actually angry at another person. 

At the end of the day, taking the time to feel better and to be careful moving forward will help your body to heal and recover.

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Eating Gluten Free does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.

The information found on this website is not intended to replace or substitute professional medical treatment or for professional medical advice relative to a specific medical condition.

We urge you to always seek the advice of your physician, or medical professional.