Trying to make conscious food choices when you are dealing with 2 different influences on your diet can be tough. In this case, one is medical and one is ethical, and sometimes they don’t mesh well together.
First, a little clarification on these terms:
A vegan diet/lifestyle uses no animal products at all, so that means no dairy, eggs, wool, honey, leather or silk. It goes for food as well as all other items. People are vegan for a variety of reasons, but generally it’s because we do not want to support the suffering and exploitation of animals. Another big factor is that livestock farming uses a lot more natural resources than plant farming does, and that is one of the driving factors behind so much pollution and ecosystem destruction in the world.
This is now becoming a fairly well-known condition, even though most people hadn’t heard of it 5 to 10 years ago. It’s an intolerance to gluten, the main protein found in wheat, rye and barley. Eating even small traces of gluten can make someone with Celiac sick with a number of digestive problems, as well as other symptoms like joint pain, fatigue and more.
The Problems of Both
So what about living with both? It just makes food choices even tougher. You’re already very limited when you have to avoid wheat (if you didn’t realize, it’s in a lot of foods), and then you add on further restrictions for eggs, dairy and animal products. It can mean slim pickings in some areas.
Specifically, the biggest problems are meat-replacement products like burger patties, hot dogs and sandwich “meat”. The majority of them use wheat gluten as their core ingredient. Brands like Yves and Gardein are easy-to-find for vegan meat alternatives, but they are not an option if you have Celiac’s too. You tend to do a lot more cooking at home, when you can find good vegan and gluten-free recipes. Look for products and recipes that rely on soy or rice rather than wheat, and you can find some gems.
In a more general sense, it just means a lot more attention needs to be spent ready labels. When you’re focused on looking for milk ingredients, you may accidentally skip over the wheat flour, or vice versa. When you can, it’s far easier to find things that are already clearly marked either vegan or gluten-free so you don’t have to work so hard when you examine the ingredients.
Hopefully, more vegan companies will realize that their products are not suitable for a growing portion of the population and start to develop more meat-free products that are also wheat-free. Things are tough enough as it is.
Terri Paajanen is a new vegan who is also living with Celiac Disease, and all the food frustration that comes with it. She’s sharing recipes at Wheatfree & Meatfree to help other people with similar dietary issues to manage their food choices.