You swore to support each other in sickness and in health, yet when it comes to a gluten-free diet, you may have found your spouse to be your biggest barrier to success.

Spouses complain that eating gluten free is too expensive and too restrictive, they tell you that you’re making a big deal about nothing, or perhaps they simply cannot imagine life without those staples of Western civilization, bread and pasta. Whatever the reason, spouses are often one’s greatest saboteur when it comes to maintaining a gluten-free diet.

Gluten-eating spouse sabotaging your gluten-free diet?

Their transgressions can be maddening. They order pasta with garlic bread in front of your newly gluten-free children, who proceed to cry through the rest of the meal. They dip their knife into your gluten-free mayonnaise after having used it on their whole wheat bread. They don’t read labels, feed the kids something with gluten in it, and then go off to work while you’re left at home to deal with your children’s stomach aches or behavioral outbursts.

Does going gluten free unearth marital issues?

Sometimes a spouse’s stubbornness unearths dormant marital discord that may require attention. Or the new gluten-free dieter becomes assertive and demanding for the first time in the relationship, which can rattle spousal dynamics. But given that gluten is linked to 55 known diseases and many neurological issues, going gluten free is worth the fight.

How to win over your reluctant spouse to a gluten-free lifestyle

The first spouse to go gluten free is often the wife. This is because moms usually spend more time caring for and feeding the children, and are more apt to notice health issues and take dietary action.

Also, the hormonal upheavals of pregnancy and childbirth can be a health tipping point for many women, who must buckle down to manage an autoimmune disease, adrenal dysfunction, hypothyroidism, inflammation or other issue after the baby is born.

So how does one win over a reluctant spouse to support a gluten-free diet?

How others have gained support from their spouse for a gluten-free diet

Patience, persistence, education, and even the willingness to nag are the ticket, say those who’ve done it.

  • “My husband had to see a lab test with positive transglutaminase antibodies [regarded as a celiac marker] and stool IgA antibodies to gluten [a marker for gluten intolerance] to be convinced our child needed to be gluten-free.”
  • “I would nag and nag and nag. I would send video via cellphone of one of the kids losing it after eating gluten.”
  • “Experiencing the severe sleep deprivation of a breastfeeding baby who was colicky and having that go away when I went gluten free.”
  • “He saw how differently I acted and felt on a gluten-free diet, and saw positive changes in our son.”
  • “He saw how sick I got when insensitive visitors who insisted on eating gluten contaminated my kitchen and my food.”
  • “He saw I was literally unable to move, stand, use my hands, or do anything unassisted for six weeks.”
  • “We called a mediator to write up a divorce agreement at the start of a GAPS diet [a stricter, grain-free diet many moms have discovered helps their children who have autism symptoms]. He told me he would leave if I didn’t go back to the way things were. I told him I could not and would not ever go back. Many rough times later, he is eating with us and on his own healing journey. We went from numb, angry, ramen-eating zombies to people who fell in love on a deeper level.”

Many spouses eventually embrace gluten-free diet

Given enough time on a gluten-free diet—even if it’s initially against their will—even the most stubborn of spouses may see the light. For instance, when the wife and kids are eating gluten free at home, the husband can get his gluten fixes only when eating out. During such a gradual weaning, some are amazed to find they also suffer from a gluten intolerance. One husband discovered gluten to be a trigger for his canker sores and migraines. The chronic back pain and depression of a spouse magically lifted on a gluten-free diet. Others find they are more energetic and clear-headed.

You, too, may find that your resistant spouse not only becomes more supportive but also embraces the diet as his or her own.