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At work, I love getting assignments that require me to debug a program or process. I love digging in and researching to figure out the cause of a problem. It’s a skill that God has blessed me with, but I never thought I’d be using that skill for something like this, tracking down what’s giving me gluten exposure symptoms. It’s something I’ve had to do again and again over the course of my gluten-free life to this point. I hate wasting food, and I’ve had to get used to throwing things away if I can’t give them away. I don’t even share a kitchen with gluten-eaters, and yet I feel I have to be as careful and cautious as someone who does because of my level of sensitivity. Dealing with gluten cross-contamination is the one thing that has made me want to give up and wave the white flag of surrender many times.

bitmoji-1692777942 While there are many general things that other sites, books, etc. will tell you to do to eliminate gluten cross-contamination, I’m listing here some of the things I’ve had to do and figure out for myself. Everyone’s experience is different, and you may have other things you have to worry about and may not have to deal with the things in my list. However, maybe something in the list below will cause something to click if you’ve been having trouble figuring out what’s causing gluten exposure symptoms in your own life.

  • I had to make a lot of changes in order to eat meals safely at work. I pack breakfast and lunch and take them to work to eat at my desk. I found out over time that disposable wipes do not effectively remove gluten from computer equipment or even my lunchbox. I would wipe all these down everyday to keep them clean. I purchased the mouse, keyboard, and lunchbox after going gluten-free, so the gluten, I concluded, had to have come from the things I would touch throughout the day that other people used too, like door handles. Here are the changes I’ve made in order to keep my food for work safe.

    • I always handle containers, utensils, bags, etc. to go into my lunchbox with clean hands. I wash my hands just before if necessary.

    • I purchased a separate mini-fridge to hold the food I’ve prepared for the next day. I found a 15.8-quart mini-fridge that was just the right size. This keeps those food items out of the regular refrigerator which becomes contaminated with gluten from grocery store items among other things.

    • I place utensils, fruit to be handled directly like apples and bananas I plan to slice, napkins, etc. in zipper bags.

    • I wash any bags or packages like potato chip bags in soap and water before putting them in my lunchbox.

    • Since I have to keep my ice pack in the regular freezer, I put it in a zipper bag before putting it in my lunchbox.

    • When I’m ready to eat a meal out of my lunchbox, I don’t touch anything in the lunchbox to get items out until I’ve washed my hands.

    • I leave used dishes and utensils out until I’ve eaten all the food that’s in my lunchbox. Once no food remains, then I put stuff back in. This keeps gluten off the items still in my lunchbox until after I’m done with them.

    • When working at my desk while eating, I eat with one hand and handle the mouse, keyboard, etc. with the other. If I have to touch anything with my eating hand, I wash my hands before I resume eating.

    • I do all my food preparation before handling computer equipment. For example, if I have to spread cream cheese on a bagel, I do that first, and then I start using the computer with one hand and eating with the other.

    • First thing, when I’m ready to eat, I’ll grab a disposable wipe with clean hands and wipe down my desk where I’ll be putting food.

    • Hard-sided coolers like the ones for six soda cans are the easiest to keep clean and work really well for a lunchbox. These can be washed in the sink with dish soap and a paper towel to remove any gluten traces that will accumulate there throughout the day.

  • I decided to change out my faucets at home that used knobs that you have to twist to ones that have the lever handle, that I could manipulate by pushing with my forearm. That way, after washing my hands, I wouldn’t have to touch the handle again to risk getting gluten back onto my just-washed hands. In other places that don’t have such faucets, I just grasp the knob with a paper towel and twist it that way.

  • I wear dental appliances to bed at night. I was, for lack of a better word, lazy about cleaning them. I would just rinse them off with water in the morning rather than brushing them clean. Residue built up on them over time. I also put them in at night after rinsing with Total Care Listerine, which I found out has gluten. Gluten residue would therefore build up on my retainers. I had to take them to my orthodontist to get them professionally cleaned. I found out my dentist can also do this type of cleaning. I brush my dental appliances clean everyday religiously now and use a gluten-free mouthwash.

  • When doing your initial cleaning of the kitchen, scrub out your sink basins with Brillo pads and scrub them out well. Do this first thing so when you’re cleaning other things in the sink, you’re not getting gluten right back on them. Making the mistake of not cleaning out the sink first can be costly, in both time and food. Any food contaminated by “dirty” utensils has to be replaced, and anything washed there will have to be cleaned again.

  • I have to be very careful when handling packages and containers from the grocery store. I always wash my hands after handling them or before touching the food inside. Also, surfaces that come into contact with them, like refrigerator/pantry shelves and countertops, will have gluten on them as well. I bought a cheap TV tray to put things I remove from the refrigerator/freezer/pantry on so I can keep them off the counter. Of course, if there’s space on the counter for such things, set that space aside for gluten-contaminated items.

  • I wash fresh produce with soap and water to remove any gluten traces. I’m trying to steer clear of harder-to-wash varieties like grapes. I buy my lettuce packaged to (hopefully) avoid trace gluten that might be on it. The safest route might be to buy a head of iceberg lettuce and peel off the outermost layers.

  • When I eat snacks while I’m out doing something, I only get things that can be handled safely through their packages and don’t need to be touched directly, such as GF candy bars, GF granola bars, GF fruit/nut bars, bananas, etc.

  • I don’t touch or handle things like books, phones, remote controls, computer mice, keyboards, etc. while eating, or at least I don’t handle them with my eating hand.

  • I always wash my hands right before I directly touch any food, unless I know my hands are clean.

  • Any food (or anything else that I’m going to consume) that touches something that I don’t know for absolute certain has no gluten on it, I try to throw it out, give it away, or store it separately. This is something that bit me in a big way recently and is something I definitely need to be more careful about in the future.

  • I almost exclusively wash dishes in the dishwasher to make sure my dishes and utensils get safely clean.

  • My cat’s food has no gluten ingredients, but I found out the hard way that it’s contaminated with gluten. I keep a separate spoon with her cat stuff, and her can of food sits inside a saucer in the refrigerator away from other food items. I fix up her food on the floor where she eats rather than on the counter. I also clean her food and drink dishes, as well as her spoon, in a sink not being used for anything else.

A lot of the work of uncovering hidden gluten exposures is looking at your own daily routine and looking into things that have the potential to come into contact with your mouth directly and indirectly. You may uncover things that the authors of guides to dealing with cross-contamination would have never thought of or considered. Also, everyone is different, and what affects one person may not affect another. While I hope the above list will help you think of things that could be causing problems in your own daily life, it’s ultimately up to you to find out what in your own unique routine may be introducing gluten inadvertently into your system.

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