Christina Kantzavelos is a Nima community member living in San Diego CA. But more often than not, Christina is visiting cities around the world. Christina writes about her gluten-free travels on her blog and on Instagram as @buenqamino.
What’s your food identity?
I was diagnosed with Celiac Disease in 2012, and have been avoiding gluten since then. Doctors couldn’t figure out why I was experiencing chronic indigestion, bloat, acne, GI issues, migraines, anxiety, etc. In 2015, I developed an intolerance to casein, and later, ethanol (alcohol), refined sugars, and most recently, high-histamine food items and soy. Some of this is due to Celiac Disease, but I also have POTS, MTHFR and MCAS. Changing my diet has been life-changing, and continues to be.
How do you maintain your food identity?
I maintain my food identity by cooking and eating whole foods. We have over 25 delicious flour substitutions (almond, coconut, cassava, garbanzo, rice, etc.), many grain-based and nut milk options (almond, coconut, buckwheat, cashew, rice, oat milk, etc.), and plenty of refined sugar substitutions (dates, coconut, maple, etc.). Not to mention, the endless amount of fruits and veggies. My diet restrictions do not restrict my creativity. I have so much fun cooking and baking with what’s available. In addition, I am constantly educating myself, especially when traveling and eating out.
What are some of your hobbies or interests?
In no particular order: Traveling, eating, writing, reading, hiking, being out in nature, meditating, languages (I speak four), painting, spending time with friends and family, volunteering, and helping others to help themselves.
What do you test with your Nima?
Anything I am not 100% certain about. I generally don’t have to worry about my own home, which is cross-contamination free. I also don’t have to worry about restaurants/bakeries that are 100% gluten-free or have strict separate facilities. But as most of us with Celiac Disease or a gluten intolerance know, those are few and far in-between. So, when eating out, I like to bust out the ol’ Nima. It has saved me many headaches, literally.
What was your food life like before you had your Nima?
I think I suffered from a quite a bit more pre-eating anxiety prior to the Nima. Not knowing if I was being taken seriously by the person taking my order, or if they were lying about having a separate fryer to just get me off their backs. Not to mention the language barrier, or whether my restaurant card was truly understood (I still use it, regardless). I’ve been hospitalized while traveling more than once, and it’s not fun. I have so much less anxiety surrounding eating thanks to the Nima.
What’s your food life like now that you have Nima?
I feel much more comfortable eating out locally, and while traveling. I no longer have to question the validity of the chef or wait staff’s words. I can simply let the Nima work its magic.
Do you talk about Nima to friends and family? What do they think of your new device? How about doctors?
My friends see my posts about it all of the time and look forward to seeing how it works in person. They are happy to see that I am now much more comfortable eating out. My doctors are impressed that such a device exists. Science is pretty cool.
What’s been one of the best features of the Nima app?
I love that you don’t need a Nima Sensor in order to be part of the Nima community or use the app. You can see what products or dishes other members have tested, and contribute if you do have a Nima device. It feels very inclusive.
When using Nima at restaurants, what has been your experience?
People are so interested to see how it works, especially waitstaff and chefs. Why is it making that noise? Why is it vibrating? How does this thing work exactly? Questions are patiently answered as we all anxiously wait around for that happy face.
I find that if a wheat stalk appears (rather than a happy face), it’s a learning experience for the establishment. They will sometimes ask for my guidance on why the dish may have been cross contaminated. They will generally apologize and offer me a different dish to test, or a refund if I don’t feel comfortable eating. I ensure there is no shame because it’s great that restaurants are offering us options, and like I said, it’s a learning experience in creating a safe eating environment for all. That is thanks again to Nima.
Has there been anything that surprised you wasn’t safe (according to Nima)?
There have been a couple of dishes, marked as being gluten-free, which tested to contain gluten (wheat stalk). Again, this was a learning experience for the establishment. On the other hand, I’ve been surprised by a couple of dishes that were not marked as ‘gluten-free’ due to potential cross-contamination exposure and had happy faces.
What’s your favorite Nima story?
While writing my San Diego Gluten-Free Guide for Nima, I met with Coronado Baking Company (aka Euro Pastry) to test out a couple of their items and found out that the owner/head baker is of Greek descent. Upon further dissection of her family tree, we found out our families are from nearby villages on the island of Crete, Greece (very specific), and that we are distantly related. Thanks to Nima, I’ve now connected with family (and gluten-free perks) in San Diego.
If you can only eat one food for the rest of your life, what would it be?
Tacos, and soup! I know that’s two, but I seriously can’t be expected to choose.
If you can only use one spice or condiment what would it be?
Condiment: Pink sea salt (POTS life) / Spice: Paprika. One of each, right?
If you can only choose one restaurant for the rest of your life where would it be?
My mom’s kitchen. There isn’t another place to find more legitimate Greek food, or healthy delicious dishes.
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Thank you for sharing your story Christina!