Valentine’s Day, crushes and romance may spark questions for those adhering to a gluten-free diet. Here are the most frequently asked questions we receive about all things romance: dating, kissing, sex drive and how to show love to someone on a gluten-free diet.
How can I talk to my date about my dietary restrictions?
This can be a big problem for young people, said Mary Kay Sharrett, a Nutrition Support Dietitian and member of Gluten-Free Living’s Dietetic Advisory Board.
“There are some kids that will decide not to follow their diet for that reason or for the meal in an effort to go out on a date and not draw attention to themselves,” she said. Sharrett advises her patients to let a date know in advance what restaurants are safe for them so they can go in with a strategy.
As with going out to eat any other time, research your Valentine’s Day restaurant spot in advance and find out whether it has a gluten-free menu and the restaurant is familiar with correct handling of gluten-free foods in the kitchen. Coffee shops, ice cream parlors or frozen yogurt places are good first date destinations because they don’t involve a full meal, and you can always find something that’s gluten free.
Can I kiss my Valentine if they’ve just eaten gluten?
Many people wonder whether gluten particles in the mouth or lipstick or lip balm will cause a reaction, Sharrett said.
Kissing and gluten cross-contamination has not been studied by medical researchers, and there are no hard facts to report. But celiac disease experts are not overly concerned about any real risk.
Peter Green, M.D., director of the Celiac Disease Center at Columbia University in New York said if there is no visible food on the mouth, “the chance of there being any gluten present is infinitesimal.”
Ultimately, “it’s going to be up to the individual,” she said. She recommends a polite rinsing of the mouth before kissing to be on the safe side.
What about kissing and gluten in lipstick, lip balm and lip gloss? These products can contain trace amounts of gluten, though the exact amount has never really been studied. It’s unlikely there is enough gluten in a date’s lipstick to cause real problems, especially given the amount you’d have to share and swallow. There’s a small amount of gluten that people with celiac can consume and consider safe, Sharrett said, and there is even less gluten than the limit in those products.
Can I get “glutened” from sex?
Not really, Sharett said. The gluten in a partner’s body would have been processed too much to have an impact on a sexual partner, she said. However, little research has been done on this subject.
Gluten-free condoms are now available, though doctors do not believe they are necessary.
Why has my sex drive gone down?
If you have celiac disease and are undiagnosed, studies have shown that you have less sex than those who are diagnosed and following a gluten-free diet. The Celiac Disease Foundation found that 70 percent of those with celiac disease reported a lack of energy affecting their sex life. Gastrointestinal symptoms and pain also affected their satisfaction with their sex life.
According to one study, patients just diagnosed with celiac who hadn’t yet adopted the diet had a significantly lower frequency of intercourse when compared with controls and reported less satisfaction with their sex drive.
How can I be a good Valentine to someone who doesn’t eat gluten?
While it’s a nice gesture, “it’s not a good idea to try to bake something for them, because there are so many issues with cross-contamination in the kitchen,” Sharrett said. She recommends finding a local dedicated gluten-free bakery to buy sweet treats from for Valentine’s Day, or to have them delivered.
Sharrett also suggests approaching a restaurant before a date and finding out whether they have gluten-free offerings, or to hire a home chef to make a romantic gluten-free dinner. If you’re looking for more gluten-free date night ideas, click here for our top picks.
Our list of Steps to Support a Loved One With Celiac Disease offers more practical suggestions from the point of view of someone with celiac disease.