Tips for a Gluten Free Thanksgiving

As I write this, we are a little over a week away from celebrating Thanksgiving in the United States. Thanksgiving is the holiday of the “Four F’s”- faith, family, food, and football. For anyone with Celiac disease, filling up your Thanksgiving plate means avoiding certain foods, even foods you’ve eaten your entire life.

This will be my second Thanksgiving since my Celiac disease diagnosis, and I would like to encourage and inform others who may be wondering how they can enjoy the holiday. Celiac disease, like other conditions, requires a drastic lifestyle change. Depending on the severity of your gluten allergy, it’s not wise to “have a cheat day,” as it could make you sick.

It’s easy to dwell on what you can’t eat if there is no gluten-free alternative. As in my case, Thanksgiving now means no dumplings, no macaroni and cheese, no rolls, no stuffing, no gravy, no green bean casserole if it’s made with cream of mushroom soup (cream of mushroom soup, like many other soups contains wheat flour). Desserts made with wheat flour can take many pies, cakes, and cookies off the table (pardon the pun).

All is not lost, however. If your family is anything like mine, there will be other food options. The key is not to dwell on what you can’t eat, but to enjoy what you can eat. Turkey and ham are naturally gluten-free (however, the broth may not be gluten free, so please insist on a gluten-free broth), mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce, corn, peas, sweet potatoes (candied yams if you prefer), traditional green beans, and other fruits and vegetable dishes are naturally gluten free. As I have learned over the last year-and-a-half, there are many gluten-free alternatives, which include breads, pastas, pie crusts, desserts, soups. If you know that there will be a lot of the traditional gluten-filled food, you do have the option to bring something you can eat, or ask someone to prepare a side dish if cooking is not your forte. For example, I didn’t miss out on dessert because my wife and sister both prepared gluten-free pies and cakes. There are plenty of gluten-free recipes on the Internet and in various cookbooks. I have listed some links below if you would like more information for yourself or a loved one who has Celiac disease and want to enjoy Thanksgiving. God bless.–14916/

Gluten and Communion

It is estimated that one percent of the world’s population, like myself, has Celiac disease. As with any type of sickness people can have varying degrees of gluten sensitivity. For some people, a trace amount of gluten can adversely affect their health, while others may be okay if they ingest a tiny amount. However, people with Celiac disease must continue to be diligent to read food labels and be aware of presumably “safe” foods that are cooked, prepared, or processed in the same facilities or on the same surfaces as foods which contain gluten.

I went to church last Sunday and experienced an intersection of my faith and Celiac disease. I didn’t have an existential crisis or question God’s reasoning for my having this disease, but it was over communion.

Communion is a sacrament in both the Protestant and Catholic Churches which serves as a reminder of Jesus’ sacrifice for us. The bread (or wafer), represents the broken body of Christ on the cross. The wine (or grape juice) represents the blood shed for our sins. There is no guideline as to when the church should have communion, as I have been to churches where communion was on the first Sunday of the month, every Sunday, or when the church felt the need for it.

This was not the first time I’ve had communion since my diagnosis, but it gave me pause before I partook of that tiny wafer smaller than an oyster cracker. I said my prayer before eating the wafer and didn’t experience any ill effects, but you see where this poses a problem for a lot of believers?

I am not demanding that churches go gluten-free or change two thousand years of tradition, I just want to raise awareness for those believers who have Celiac disease. Prior to writing this post, I learned that there are gluten-free communion wafers that can be purchased. The simple fix would be to bring my own wafer as the church partakes of communion, as I do when I bring my gluten-free alternatives to family gatherings.

I’m Protestant, but for those of the Catholic faith, the issue is slightly more complicated, as Vatican directives state that communion wafers must contain wheat. (A simple Google search will lead to numerous secular and religious news site concerning the Vatican directive). I would also like hear back from any readers who have encountered this struggle or how you deal with Celiac disease in general. Thanks and God bless.