Vigilance is a word that conjures up effort; it takes physical effort and mental energy to be always awake and cautious about something that, should you deviate or relax for even a moment, could have very negative consequences. In the realm of gluten-free living, there is a universal law, your level of vigilance is directly proportional to your level of safety. The more vigilant you are, the more gluten-free you will be. If your vigilance varies unpredictably, your success in living gluten-free hangs in the balance.
If you have celiac disease, letting your guard down just once can be enough to get you sick. On a scale of one to ten, where one is low and ten is high, your vigilance must be a ten. Even though research suggests that minute traces of gluten may not be dangerous, your level of vigilance must be a ten because it will help you avoid making mistakes and ingesting levels of gluten that are unacceptable.
If you’re gluten intolerant, but not celiac, your level of vigilance should still be on the high end to avoid gluten, and it’s up to you to determine how vigilant you want to be according to your own body and reactions. For you, ingesting gluten may be as uncomfortable as if you had celiac disease.
If you’re gluten-sensitive, your level of vigilance will be determined by how important avoiding gluten is to you. If you know you’re gluten-sensitive but are willing to put up with a fleeting and potentially embarrassing bout of gas that may come from eating your coworker’s birthday cake (for example), your level of vigilance is relative to your desires at the time. Celiac disease does not allow for this kind of whimsical deviation. Those who are celiac or gluten intolerant know the real meaning of having eyes behind their head and staying the course when it comes to avoiding gluten. But mistakes happen . . .