The year was 2010, I was getting my master’s, and I had diarrhea, the kind that makes you closer to God! Way to get your attention, right?!
This was a common thing for me, at that time. It was so common, that I knew all the best bathrooms on campus to get privacy. To top it off, I really thought this was caused by stress. To give you an idea, on the stress I was going through, I got shingles during this time too. I clearly remember being in the urgent care, because I thought I had gotten bitten by a spider (several times) and the doctor saying, this is definitely shingles.
SHINGLES! What kind of spider is that?!
Anyway, I was finally convinced that the way I was living wasn’t normal and I should go get it checked out. My diagnosis: Celiac disease.
If you are new to celiac, it is an autoimmune disease, and the only treatment there is today is to stop eating gluten, completely. Easy, right?
Gluten is found in wheat, barley, and rye (or in everything delicious). The tricky part comes when we factor in cross-contamination. Cross-contamination comes when the food comes in contact with gluten indirectly. Think about french fries, naturally gluten-free, but if they were fried in the same oil as mozzarella sticks, well there will be some cross contamination.
So today if I get gluten this is a summary of what happens to me:
- Diarrhea for days
- Uncomfortable bloating
- Joint pain
- Foggy vision
Yeah, not fun at all, so I usually very careful not to ingest it. Which is where the struggle comes into play.
Zero Waste and Celiac Disease
Buying Bulk and Plastic Free
What I’m most scared of here is cross contamination like the picture below. This was coffee creamer in bulk, with some glutenfull granola crumbs in it. After I saw that, I became really anxious about all the bulk bins and I bought everything packaged. Yes, I feel 100% more confident if the bulk section had spouts instead of a bin to pour into and I try to go to the bulk store early in the morning when everything is clean.
There are limited options. I am lucky that my bulk store carries gluten-free oats, and some pasta (not the best tasting one, but it will do), but I have yet to find gluten-free flour in bulk. I deal with is by buying Pamela’s Flour in the 30lbs bags which come in paper packaging. I would love to see a gluten-free cereal option too in bulk.
Bread! I love bread. I started to make my own, but I sucked at making it, it doesn’t taste the same, it crumbled, and it was small. So in this case, I decided that I would still buy sandwich bread packaged (I do recycle the bag). I have been able to find a baguette that comes wrapped in paper (yay!).
Not everything is bad
Not everything was a bad thing about going zero waste while having celiac. I started making a lot of my cosmetics and beauty products, and the ones I don’t make have very simple ingredients. So I’m very confident that they don’t have any gluten.
I was diagnosed, in 2010 when eating gluten-free wasn’t a fad. Because of my limited options for eating out then, I became a pro at always packing my food, which included a second breakfast (this is a normal thing, right?), lunch, and snacks. Preparing meals in the weekend became a habit of mine. So today, I hardly ever eat out because of it. Packing a lunch zero waste is uber super easy transititon. This habit has saved me tons of money!
Like I said above, I hardly eat out, but when I do. It’s usually a slow meal where I don’t have to worry plastic cutlery. But I’m not going to lie, there have been a few times where the hangry monster just comes out of me. In this situations, I do have a few go to places. In n’ Out burger where I get a protein burger, and it comes in paper. Whole Foods where I get something from the salad bar in their compostable plates. Any grocery store, for fruit that can hold me over.
There have been times, when I have been stuck at the airport with nothing to eat and where I think "if I didn’t have celiac, then I would be able to eat in a place where I wouldn’t create waste." In this zero waste journey of mine, my health will always be a priority and I have to remember that it is about progress, not perfection.
Most importantly, I have found a great bakery that will package gluten-free donuts in my own container, so you can say I'm pretty much set for life (Urban Cookies, THANK YOU!).
Although, a bit harder, going zero waste and having celiac can go hand in hand. I think I probably do recycle a bit more than I would if I didn't have celiac, but again, zero waste does not have to perfect, and everyone's journey is completely different.
Do you have celiac, and you are zero waste? What are your obstacles?
Make a little green change today.