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Gluten Confusion at the Hospital

You’d think hospitals would be among the safest places for gluten-free patients. Think again, my friends. It turns out *gasp* some hospitals are not particularly good at providing gluten-free options to celiac and gluten intolerant patients.

Over a year ago, I learned about this problem when reading Gluten Hates Me’s post Getting Glutened in the Hospital. My husband and I were just beginning to think about starting a family at the time I read her post, so I was particularly interested in her experience when delivering her son.

After my hospital stay, I’d say the lack of gluten knowledge may be more common than one might think. I’m glad I read her post, because I was prepared for the worst when I went in to have our baby.

I told my nurse first-thing when we got to the hospital for my induction that I had celiac disease and could not digest any gluten. She didn’t sound very familiar with the disease, but she entered it into the computer and told a few of the other nurses. I felt good about that.

Moms aren’t allowed to eat anything during labor until the baby is delivered, so I didn’t really think about it the remainder of my first day in the hospital.

As soon as our daughter, Calah, was born, my parents brought me food from outside of the hospital. I didn’t want to worry about trying to order something from the hospital and make sure it was safe – all while I was so exhausted and hungry!

My husband called to place our first order at the hospital later that evening and asked about the gluten-free options. There weren’t really any special gluten-free dishes, so I went with a bun-less burger, fruit cup and ice cream. All of which, we were assured by the person on the phone would be gluten-free. When the cafeteria person (a different person from on the phone) delivered the meal, she looked at the receipt which was clearly marked “gluten-free.” Then she looked at me and said, “Are you gluten-free?” I told her I was. She then asked if I knew what foods had gluten in them, as to say she wasn’t sure what the heck she was brining me. Since I knew what I ordered was gluten-free, I gave her a smile and told her what I ordered was gluten-free.

I had a similar experience with the remainder of the meals I ate at the hospital. There was a very limited selection, but the food was always pretty good and I wasn’t glutened.

Because I stayed at the hospital for three days, I had quite a few nurses caring for me. Each time, the leaving nurse would tell the new nurse that I had celiac disease and couldn’t eat gluten. Each time, I giggled to myself because I could tell they had no idea what that meant. I don’t blame them. They are labor and delivery nurses – not nutritionists.

They kept trying to bring me milk and warm cookies each evening. At the end of the stay, they brought me cake pops as a thank you. I didn’t have the heart to tell them I couldn’t eat any of it.

On the bright side, there were complimentary slushies and endless apple juice that kept me going. I also came prepared with snacks and protein bars.

My advice – plan ahead if you can. Don’t expect lots of gluten-free goodness. You will likely be disappointed. And if there happens to be a lot of gluten-free yummies at a hospital you stay at, you can just be pleasantly surprised.

Did anyone have a positive experience with gluten-free food during a hospital stay? I’d love to hear about it. 

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