Gluten-Free Horror Stories – Show and Tell

gluten free horror2

For us, gluten is Public Enemy No. 1. It holds the power to ruin first dates, tarnish your reputation at work, and bring a good day to a screeching halt. An inconvenient stomachache at your desk is one thing, running out in the middle of a meeting to vomit into a trash can is quite another. Especially if that trash can just so happens to belong to the CEO. Gather around the campfire, kids – it’s time to tell gluten-free horror stories.

We’ll kick off the storytelling with a few tales of gluten gone wrong from people just like you, but we also want to hear your tales from the crypt. We’re offering an awesome GFB prize package to the person (victim?) who shares the ultimate GF horror story.  Hilarious, heinous, or unbelievable – now’s the time to make your story known. Share your story in the comments section at the bottom of this post. The winner will receive a case of 12 GFBs bars and 3 bags of our delicious Bites. Winner will be decided on 3/31/16.


#1: The conference from hell

Submitted by Lauren A.

As a finalist for a competitive fellowship program, I attended a 2-day interview event at a local upscale hotel. I informed the hotel of my dietary restrictions in advance, and they even provided special place settings at each meal for those with allergies and restrictions. After half a day of marathon interviews, we gathered in the hotel’s banquet room for a catered lunch and guest speakers. With my “gluten-free” place setting in plain sight and a verbal confirmation from the waiter, he served me a hearty-looking pita sandwich and a side of soup. Impressed that the hotel had such legit GF options, I ate half the pita while networking and chatting with other guests. I put the other half in my bag for later and headed out for another 3 hours of interviews.

A few hours later, right in the middle of my very last interview, it hit me. I was queasy, dizzy, and my stomach felt like a war zone. I knew it wouldn’t be long. I stumbled through the end of the interview and barely made it to the nearest bathroom before throwing up. I spent the rest of the evening in my hotel room getting sick, missing the evening’s dinner and the keynote speaker. It turns out the server was new to the job and didn’t even know what gluten-free meant. Needless to say, I didn’t get the fellowship. The only silver lining is that I didn’t eat the entire thing and get sick right in the middle of an interview. 


#2: The worst first day of school ever

Submitted by Gluten-Free Mom

This story comes to us from Gluten Free Mom and chronicles her daughter’s difficulty eating gluten-free at the University of Washington. She reports that these issues have now been largely resolved, but her daughter Alex’s first day of college was pretty awful – and we bet there are other GF college freshmen with similar experiences.

Prior to starting her freshman year, Alex’s family had several meetings with UW staff, trying to create a plan for accessing safe, GF meals from the school cafeterias. On her very first day, Alex braved the dorm cafeteria for dinner. She even texted the chef in advance to let him know that she would be coming in.

Despite that, she ate what was allegedly gluten-free pasta with marinara sauce and got so sick that her friends had to walk her back to her dorm room. It turns out that the kitchen had prepared the sauce in the same kettle used to boil big batches of non-GF pasta. Alex spent her very first week of college recovering from being glutened, and their family spent much of her freshmen year fighting for safe GF accommodations. That’s not exactly what you picture when you imagine your first week of college. Read more about their experiences on Gluten Free Mom’s blog.


#3: Bridezilla strikes again

Submitted by Jillian R.

I stood up in a close friend’s wedding last year. I’ve known her since kindergarten, and she remained one of my very closest friends at the time of my diagnosis at age 17. Although she’s never quite seemed to get it, she was by my side as I adjusted to the new diet and lifestyle, and for years she’s witnessed me struggle through restaurant menus, asking question after question about their gluten-free options. After nearly a year of expensive, time-consuming wedding activities, from dress fittings to the bridal shower to the bachelorette party, her wedding day finally arrived. The day began at 9 AM for the wedding party, and when the reception rolled around, we were all starving.

Not a single thing on her wedding menu was gluten-free – not even the potatoes. Instead, I had to leave the reception during dinner to go buy myself Chipotle. While I was gone, they ended up playing the Bridal Party video and doing the first toast – I missed the entire thing. So, I did what any jaded bridesmaid would: I took advantage of the open bar until I had bought back my dinner, dress, and wedding present.


What’s your gluten-free horror story?

Share your wildest, funniest, and most unbelievable GF experiences with us in the comments below for a chance to win an awesome GFB prize package! The winner will receive a case of 12 GFBs bars and 3 bags of our delicious Bites. Winner will be decided on 3/31/16.

  • Conrad

    Oh man…here goes. Layover in Miami airport. Eat at a mexican place in the airport. I ask for corn tortillas and the tortillas I got were a little weird but no gluten radar went off. More on that later. Anyway, I ate everything. Fast forward about an hour…I’m on my 3 hour flight to Detroit and I feel some serious rumbling going on. I am in the window seat with both people next to me fast asleep. I try to hold on but I just can’t do it. I wake the people up next to me and sprint to the bathroom and proceed to spend the next hour+ in the airplane bathroom feeling all sorts of terrible. Flight attendant knocks many times convinced I’m dead. Blah blah blah…eventually make it home. Two days later I am finally feeling coming back to normalcy. I call the restaurant at the airport ready to start WW III. Turns out the tortillas they used were some corn/flour 50/50 mix. I wanted to kill someone. Lesson learned.

    • theglutenfreebar

      Brutal. I have seen those 50/50 tortillas before. Who’s idea was that anyway?

  • August

    Yeah, so I was on vacation and went to a a Colombian steakhouse…Grilled steak, what could be safer, right? They confirmed everything was gluten-free, but when the steak came out it had a gravy type sauce on it. I always avoid all gravies – I know things like this often have flour as a thickener in the sauce…so I asked several times to confirm – “is this really gluten-free?”. My alarm was going off, but was I really not going to eat it when I have been told 3 times it was GF? I should have trusted my intuition. But i was hungry..and it looked good.. and I ate everything. That night went downhill quickly after dinner and after 3 days of not being able to eat anything, I checked myself into the hospital and went into emergency surgery, as my appendix was about to burst. So, I can’t confirm that massive gluten intake after 5 years completely off gluten caused my appendix to blow up, but it seems logical…

    • theglutenfreebar

      Thanks August. So you almost died from eating gluten… Did you ever go back to the terrible restaurant to let them know they almost killed you? I heard about a guy that did actually die from complications of eating gluten…happened in China of all places.

  • Elizabeth

    It was my birthday. We went to a restaurant and I was conscientious about ordering. I had gone on-line before had a researched the menu. I ordered, we had a nice time, food was good. On the way home to eat my GF birthday cake, I got all KINDS of sick. Dizzy, sweaty, nausea. Everything. I couldn’t figure it out, since everything was supposedly GF. Worse, there was NO WAY I would be able to eat my cake. I went upstairs to bed and wanted to die. Actually, I was pretty well convinced I was having a heart attack, since everything I had ate was GF. I went back to the restaurant a month later. It turns out that there is an oil that they put on the veggies that has gluten in it. If I had ordered my broccoli dry, everything would have been fine. What a cruddy birthday…

    • theglutenfreebar

      Thanks for sharing Elizabeth! Definitely not a good way to celebrate your birthday. Just reading this makes my stomach hurt.

  • Angie W

    #1 I went to Red Robin and got a gluten free burger and fries. They reassured me up and down that their fryer was a dedicated gluten free fryer. After I had gotten to the bottom of my fries, I found a crispy onion straw, which is definitely not GF. I told my server about it and was pretty upset since I knew I would be getting sick within the next couple of hours. They apologized up and down, refunded my meal and gave me a gift card to go back, reassuring me that this would never happen again. Since they had given me the gift card, we returned a couple of months later. I carefully and firmly explained what happened last time and what I needed to happen this time. They had a manager come to my table and reassure me that I would be ok. I get my food, get 3/4 of the way through my fries and find AGAIN a crispy onion straw. The manager saw me holding it up to show my husband and came over to ask what happened. At that, I burst into big noisy sobs because I was so upset and knew that I was going to get sick again. Not only embarassing, but needless to say, we aren’t returning to there.

    #2 I went to a restaurant and had gotten glutened from who knows what. Unfortunately, the next day we had to drive to visit a relative 3 hours away who lives in the middle of nowhere. A couple of hours into the drive, my stomach started rumbling, but there are no stores or any place to stop. I try to hold it but eventually can’t and tell my husband to pull over anywhere. The nearest place to stop is on the side of the road next to a couple of houses. It has snowed and is winter, so all foliage cover has disappeared. I run to the area with the most coverage (which was a few small bare trees) on someone’s lawn and squat to do my business. After experiencing relief, I look up and find the neighbor next door loading his car a mere 50 feet from me, studiously avoiding all eye contact. Mor.Ti.Fy.Ing.

    • theglutenfreebar

      Angie – thanks for sharing not 1 but 2 stories! The end of #2…wow. That just could not have been a good situation. Hopefully you can laugh about it now 😉

      • Angie W

        Oh yes, I laugh about that quite a bit now. 🙂

        • theglutenfreebar

          Hi Angie – You were selected as the winner with the best gluten-free horror story! Please contact us at and we will arrange for you to receive your prize!

          • Angie W

            Yay, thank you! I will shoot an email over right now. I love that my horror story has turned into something good!

  • Natascha Jones

    The Husband and I went to Denny’s for a lunch date and I was amazed that they had GF labels next to their meals. I was excited that I would finally be able to eat an English muffin again after so long, even more so, outside of my home. I told the staff about my allergies and they said they were on board.
    But alas, I asked if gloves are worn and if there is a separate toaster for the English muffins? Negative. Why should they get separate small kitchen appliances? That’s absurd. Thank you Dennys.

    First appetizer arrives, their GF Nachos, light on the cheese. Excitement!, not about the bland food but about the fact that I can eat this outside of my home. I was surprised that these tasted so yummy, when usually GF tortilla chips are still peculiar to me. The waitress assured me it was GF, that they get people with weird food habits all the time.
    Excuse me lady?

    Then came our food. I got a hot pan of food, full of chicken and avocado and spinach and mushrooms and migraine!
    Big fat flaming migraine, and stomach cramps of death followed by mega bloated belly. Very sexy.
    GF Nachos are not GF at all. Waitress states that she thought GF meant no fish.

    I walk it off with the hubs, we stroll around Best Buy and I use my peppermint oil for headaches (I’m a pro when it comes to migraines now) and eureka! There come the Nachos!
    I must have stampeded to that bathroom like a fat kid chasing the ice cream truck.

    • theglutenfreebar

      Hi Natascha. That does not sound like fun and goes to show that when a restaurant goes through the process of trying to make a GF menu, they are only tackling half the issue…the other half being the proper training and education of it’s staff. Thanks for sharing your story!

  • Katie

    My first poisoning was only this past January, and it was unintentionally self-induced. You see, granulated iced tea mix has gluten in it as an anti-clumping agent. I only discovered that after several months of continued symptoms after going GF, but of course, since I was still new to GF (and still contaminating myself periodically), my symptoms weren’t that extreme then. It was a particularly painful discovery at the time, though, because my mother makes a spiced tea drink mix with it that her mother made since before my mom was born, and since I was still trying to come to terms with my new lifestyle I was emotionally devastated by the loss.

    Anyway, I went to a weekend event out of town at a bed and breakfast (owned by a friend, coincidentally). We arrived too late for dinner, but there were 35 of us all at the meeting and in the midst of the high-energy conversation I didn’t realize I had sucked down 4 or 5 glasses of sweet tea in less than half an hour. Of course, I didn’t ask what KIND of tea it was made from, even though I knew in particular that I have to ask – and have been asking since my first discovery, at every restaurant and hotel I visit – but for some reason I just totally forgot. It was only after I was halfway through some late night chips-n-salsa (all GF, because I brought them) when the chip I had only eaten half of suddenly tasted off, the temperature under my collar rose by about 10 degrees, all my clothes suddenly seemed two sizes too small, and my mind slowed to a crawl, that it ever occurred to me to wonder about the tea.

    Thanks to the quick intervention of my fiance, who has done extensive reading on celiac disease and also suffers from chronic acid reflux, I was put to bed with pepcid, pepto-bismol, anti-gas medicine, and my own migraine prescription. For the rest of the weekend, I only suffered from bloating, out of control body temperature, mild nausea, and a tolerable headache, and my friend the owner, who was very apologetic, was kind enough to personally make me very bland rice and mashed potatoes for every other meal. No one had to suffer through any vomiting, interesting bowel movements, or horrible gas this time, at least! Who knows what next time will bring…

    • theglutenfreebar

      Hi Katie. I feel for ya. That sounds pretty horrible. Another great example of gluten making its way into so many things…especially things it should NOT be in like iced tea mix. Thankfully you have an understanding and well-educated fiance 😉

  • Heather

    I am a pianist. Recently, I performed a small private concert for a wealthy older couple and several of their associates. It was a lovely recital, and they had a reception afterward with many delicious-smelling, homemade foods. Unfortunately, there had been a miscommunication, so they did not realize that I have Celiac. There wasn’t a single thing at the reception that I could eat. I had to stand there in my concert dress, watching everyone enjoy their dinner and ask me why I wasn’t eating, for two hours – after playing a two-hour solo recital. It wasn’t the most encouraging experience.

    • theglutenfreebar

      Hi Heather. I can appreciate where you’re coming from. Usually at least there is a veggie platter us GF’ers can pick at but sounds like you didn’t even have that “luxury” and only adds to it when people wonder why you’re not eating and then they keep asking you about it. I think we’ve all been there. Thanks for sharing your story.

  • Jo McCormick

    n artist. In May last year I was excited and delighted to be asked to contribute to a fringe event for the Venice Bienalle, the “Fall of the Rebel Angels” exhibition. A close friend and colleague was also invited, so we devided to travel together. We booked a seemingly great deal with British Airways, and my friend took care of booking the flights. She telephoned to enquire about their provision of gluten free meals and also veggie meals as she’s a vegetarian. She was reassured on the telephone that although it was not possible to book special meals in advance, we would be catered for if we explained our requirements when boarding the plane. HA! Misleading advice. The cabin staff had no concept of gluten free and seemed to think that I was just being difficult and that it was some kind of awkward lifestyle choice. They told me that they had gluten free food available. But only to business class passengers. And that because I was travelling in economy they would not cater for me. They offered me an orange juice and were incredibly rude. I begged and pleaded with them (I was starving) but to no avail. I made an official complaint when I got home, citing discrimination – as coeliacs disease could be classed as a disability – only to be met with total lack.of understanding, rudeness and indifference. Needless to say I will NOT be flying British Airways again

    • theglutenfreebar

      Thanks for sharing your story Jo. It really is the worst when people think you’re being difficult when it comes to asking questions about food. I hope this trend is shifting but there really is no excuse for BA to turn their back on you like that.


    Last May I was in Anaheim California for a conference. There was an awards ceremony with all sorts of cheeses and fruits etc. I asked one of the waitresses if they had any gluten free crackers to go with the cheeses and she said “Oh sure, I will get you some.” The hotel had a good restaurant with several gluten free options so I thought nothing of it. She brought the crackers and I ate three of them before I thought to ask if they were truly gluten free. She brought the box out and to my horror I saw that they were “Carr’s Table Crackers”. I immediately went to the bar tender and asked if he could get me some ginger ale. I drank 3 bottles and hoped for the worst. The next day, it hit me and I was sick for a week, including an air flight back to the east coast. I am a lot less trustworthy now.

    • theglutenfreebar

      Thanks for sharing your story…yeah stuff like that really makes you a lot less trustworthy of others (at least when it comes to GF stuff) but I guess that’s the world we live in these dasy

  • Heidi Berger Somers

    My husband and I had just dropped off our kids at church for an all night event. We jdecided to start our evening together with dinner out at a restaurant in the next town. I asked all the important questions and ordered my dinner. It was chicken Marsala with mashed potatoes not noodles. I was told by our waitress after she consulted with the cook that no wheat flour would be used. Dinner arrived and I started to eat. My husband was suspicious of the cloudy color of the Marsala sauce and called the waitress over. She went to the kitchen and consulted with the cook. She comes back and informs us that he used only a “little bit” of flour, to which I burst into tears in a crowded dining room. She also told me that they would remake my dinner without flour. When I have wheat I get an anaphylactic reaction. Our romantic night sans kids was over.

    • theglutenfreebar

      Hi Heidi…thanks for sharing that sad story. “Just a little bit” eh? Unbelievable. I’m sorry your romantic evening came to an abrupt end.

  • Katy O’Leary

    I am currently living in Thailand, where the language barrier has added a few extra layers to my already incessant food anxiety. All of the strange ingredients I have learned to scan for, and lists of questions I have learned to ask, were rendered useless in a place that did not speak or label in a familiar language.
    After my first few months here, I was finally starting to get more comfortable with navigating my chronic trepidation in this foreign land. This is always where my story seems to go terribly wrong –
    It happened at my most frequented coffee joint, right up the road from my work. The owner had learned my usual, after weeks of repetitive charades, and even taught me how to order a hot black coffee in Thai. His girlfriend, who speaks the best English in town, had arrived with a fresh batch of snacks and was stocking the front shelf. She offered me a free taste of the banana chips, fresh out of her mothers kitchen.
    I was skeptical, but I trusted her. I asked her the ingredients in every way I could think of. Sweet or salty? Oil or butter? Oven or stove? I tried one- as if I my deprived taste buds would be able to detect the invader right away. They were delicious! I ate the entire bag, and thanked her in both Thai and English, and before I knew it I was back home, dizzy, and bedridden for the night.
    Work that week was a disaster. I work as a foreign English teacher, with children ages 7-10, in a school whose bathrooms are equipped with squat toilets. No english was necessary for the students to see that Teacher Katy was not herself this week. Still, I was unable to fully communicate what was going on to any students of staff at school.
    By the end of the week, the students had witnessed a tried, agitated, and full, bloated-bellied version of myself. By Friday it was concluded, and well circulated throughout school, that I was pregnant, and engaged to be married to the foreign Chinese teacher whose classroom was next door.

    • theglutenfreebar

      Hi Katy!! Thanks for sharing your story. I can only imagine how difficult it must be to be in front of a group of students (let alone foreign students) and feeling so terrible. On the other hand, seems like you found the love of your life 😉 jk jk

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