Patricia is a Nima community member living in San Diego, California. She is a gluten-free foodie and celiac warrior! You can follow her gluten-free adventures on her instagram @everythingceliac. She will also have a public blog coming soon!
What’s your food identity, and how do you maintain it?
Even though I’ve been sick for years, I was only diagnosed with Celiac disease a few months ago, and I’ve been strictly gluten-free since then. This is an autoimmune disease where your body responds to gluten (a protein found in wheat, barley, malt, and sometimes oats, due to cross-contamination) consumption by attacking the villi in your small intestine. When your villi gets attacked, it flattens out, avoiding the absorption of the nutrients you ingest, leaving you with malnutrition, and most likely, anemic. The only treatment for this disease is to maintain a strict gluten-free diet for life, like no cheating – a little crumb can cause damage for months!
I’m a foodie! I love to cook, to discover new ingredients, flavors, and combinations. I’ve been playing around in my kitchen making gluten-free versions of a few of my favorite family dishes. I also enjoy trying new restaurants. I now plan to revisit a few of them to try their gluten-free dishes.
I appreciate good food, and I try to keep a balance between eating organic whole foods, while enjoying a little bit of the gluten-free indulgences I like. Celiac won’t make me stop enjoying and appreciate good and safe gluten-free food.
Tell us a little about your gluten-free journey. What was it like when you started eating gluten-free? What challenges did you face?
Starting a gluten-free diet, while learning what was indeed Celiac disease, what was safe to eat, what tasted good, what could cause pain, what was cross-contaminated etc, was like being on a tiny boat on really choppy waters! No fun. Actually it was nerve-wracking. When you enter a strict gluten-free diet, your body goes through a few changes, as it begins lowering inflammation, you start having migraines, pains and aches like the flu. You feel worse until you start to feel better.
I faced many challenges during this process. I had to learn where gluten was hidden on labels, sometimes under different names. I learned to not trust all gluten-free labels. I had to completely change my kitchen to gluten-free, by replacing a few gadgets like, toaster, cutting boards, strainers, colanders, silicone utensils, and non-stick pans. I got rid of all gluten containing products, and I now carefully read every single label of anything and everything that enters my kitchen, bathroom, and medicine cabinet. I mostly eat at home and make my own food. I had to learn what was cross-contamination and how to advocate for myself to have my meal safely prepared at restaurants. I also learned there’s no guarantee this will happen, that’s why I test my food every time.
What was your food life like before you had your Nima?
It was a scary one. Kinda like a lottery game, but you don’t want to hit the “jackpot”. Back then, entering the unknown world of gluten-free, having to trust exclusively on manufacturer’s labels, I had to quickly stick to a few staple foods that were safe, because I wasn’t having a reaction. I couldn’t be adventurous and risk my own health.
What’s your food life like now that you have Nima?
So much better!!! Nima has given me the tool I needed to try different foods that I was afraid to try before and risk getting a reaction. Foods I thought were safe, were actually not safe after I tested them with Nima, and the opposite also happened, foods I thought weren’t safe, turned out safe. Restaurant nights are now so much easier! I always let Nima take the first bite and it has been saving me from getting sick. Such peace of mind!
What do you test with Nima? Has there been anything that surprised you wasn’t safe (according to Nima)?
I test pretty much every single spice and condiment I get. I also test spreads, deli meats, snacks, sweets, medicine, cosmetics, and restaurant dishes.
I’ve had a few surprises with Nima test results. Things I thought were safe, were actually giving me a bad reaction, and after I tested them with Nima, voila! The confirmation I already knew, that it contained gluten. The biggest surprise came when I was testing a certified gluten-free product and found gluten in it. To be certified, their products must test at <10ppm (tem parts per million) by the organization that certified them.
What do your friends, family, and/or doctors think about Nima?
My doctor had never heard of Nima before I told him about it, and he was impressed and pleased to know there’s such an amazing tool available to help Celiacs live a better life. My family loves Nima, and is happy knowing I’m safe. My friends think it’s a really cool device. They love to watch Nima working. It’s an entertainment for them.
When using Nima at restaurants, what has been your experience? Do you have a favorite Nima related story?
It has been great! Amazingly, staff at restaurants are open and very accommodating of Celiac needs. Once at a restaurant, after asking the key questions on how their food was prepared, cross-contamination, etc, the food came and after testing positive for gluten, they were surprised, and worked with me until we figured out what was the source of gluten, and it turned out it was a spice that they had recently switched providers. He then brought some of it to the table, and the confirmation came that the gluten source was from it. They were relieved to find out the source of contamination, and after I tested the new dish, they celebrated the gluten-free result.
Bonus fun questions:
If you can only eat one food for the rest of your life, what would it be?
If you can only use one spice or condiment what would it be?
If you can only choose one restaurant for the rest of your life where would it be?
The Cheesecake Factory
– – –Thank you for sharing your story Patricia!