I love talking to people about being gluten intolerant and how it’s changed my life. Seriously – if you have a question, please ask. What I get tired of is the same people asking the same questions. This for them. And for those people are who struggling with being gluten intolerant – this is for you.
When I first found out I was gluten intolerant, I was so sick that I didn’t have the energy to mourn. Maybe that’s you. And maybe it’s not. Maybe you’re going through the stages of grief over it – there’s no sarcasm there. It sucks. It will continue to suck. There are moments where you’ll question ‘why me?’ – that’s normal. But as long as you ask questions, do your research, find ways to accommodate your new eating, and most importantly, find a community of support whether that be friends, family, blogs, whatever, you’ll get through it. I wouldn’t say that if it wasn’t true.
So may I present you, the most frequently asked questions
When did you find out you were gluten intolerant?
Towards the end of September 2011.
How’d you find out?
This question has some background to it, but I’ll start with finding out and then backtrack. I was sick for two weeks straight in October with serious digestive issues. It seemed that no matter what I ate, it left my stomach in a violent matter. I was exhausted, drained, dehydrated, and doing basically anything to get through each day. I was also embarrassed and slightly ashamed of what was going on. I pride myself in my ability to talk about health issues, but this was a whole other level. I was barely functioning.
So it took two weeks for me to realize that it seemed to be worst after a carb heavy meal. Super counter intuitive as when you reach that level of sick, all you want is bread or crackers. Anything mild. With that realization, I did a lot of research (I tend to over research health issues and completely freak myself out) and came to the conclusion I probably had some sort of gluten intolerance. I was tested for Celiac Disease when I was in high school and that came back negative, so I figured I probably wouldn’t test positive, but I knew it had to be gluten related.
The problem with getting tested for Celiac is that you have to continue to eat gluten so that it stays in your blood stream. So I kept eating it, knowing that it was poisoning my system. And of course the test came back negative. But the day after the test, I gave it up for two weeks.
The first week was kinda rough. I had headaches and some sinus issues and still a few tummy troubles, but the second week, I felt great. I felt so great in fact, that I believed I had made the whole thing up and I was in fact not gluten intolerant. Everyone who gives up gluten should do this, but I decided to do my try gluten test at Five Guys. Four bites in, I realized I was going to be sick. Really sick. I finished my burger (hey…if I was gonna be sick I might finish the job!), and went home.
Now backing up, a friend recently said to me “Don’t you think you were probably always kind of gluten intolerant because you’ve always had stomach issues?” and looking back, yeah, I probably was. I’ve had “tummy troubles” since middle school. But when you’re in middle school and everyone else doesn’t have these “tummy troubles” you learn how to pretend that you don’t have them either. So I was pretty good at hiding it. Sad, I know.
What is gluten in?
Easy – wheat, rye and barley.
But you say things like soy sauce make you sick?
Ah yes, the trickery that is gluten. It is in soy sauce. I don’t know why. I learned awhile ago to stop asking questions because it makes my head hurt. Gluten is a protein which means it’s very sticky (aka that’s why things stick together when you bake with flour…when you bake gluten free you have to use something called xantham gum which helps things stick). It’s also in some salad dressings, bleu cheese (something about the way it’s processed?), vanilla extract, some frozen yogurt flavors, potato chips, fries, and a random other assortment of weird things. I read every ingredient label of everything I buy.
What happens when you eat gluten?
These next questions are the frequent of frequent I get asked. And I may sound a tad bitchy answering them but it’s mainly because these are the ones the same people ask me. When I eat gluten, it’s a multi-process shut down.
Within about 5-30 minutes of eating it, my body goes into shock. I start to get a headache and the energy drains out of my body. Literally drains – I can hardly keep my eyes open at this point. My body enters a state of complete exhaustion.
30 minutes to an hour later, my digestive system freaks out. I’ll spare you the details, but I’d disappear for a long time. I’d probably have reading material. And I’d be miserable.
The stomach issues last for up to 4 days while it fully exits my system. It’s not worth it.
Is this some kind of diet?
Negatory. I would never do this kind of diet. I LOVE bread. I LOVE pasta. I LOVE cookies and brownies and beer and not worrying about food I order at restaurants making me sick for the rest of the week. I have lost weight due to this eating, but if you read the foods I love, it shouldn’t surprise you. I can’t eat them. 1+1=2, doesn’t it?
So when can you eat gluten again?
I can’t. This one annoys the shit out of me. I’ve heard stories of people miraculously being able to eat it on occasion without issues. I did two 40+ day cleanses for my body to heal. I had gluten both times afterward and both times I was sick. I don’t think I’m one of those miraculous people. And honestly, I don’t want to keep trying to eat it. Did you read what happens to me??
What do you miss the most?
This question doesn’t annoy me – and this is the most frequently asked question. And to answer…I miss beer the most. Many foods have good substitutes when I can’t go any longer without them. Beer isn’t really one of them. Plus think of all the rituals that go with beer…happy hours, sporting events, first dates, pre-gaming, day drinking…the list goes on. Drinking liquor or hard cider just isn’t the same. Plus I love beer. And it’s cheap.
But aside from beer, I do miss rituals when gluten is associated. To give you a good example, my friend is getting married this weekend, and I won’t be able to have any wedding cake. And wedding cake is the best. Or my best friend’s mom makes pumpkin bread every fall…this year will be the first year I won’t be able to have it. And it’s good! It’s the little things like that that bother me. Day to day I’m fine.
Do you have any other food allergies?
Dairy and I have a love/hate relationship. I have done a lot of paying attention to what I eat, and I still have yet to find out a pattern for when dairy bothers me and when it doesn’t. So it’s kind of like Russian Roulette. It’s a cruel game.
I also don’t eat sugar, but that’s not necessary due to an allergy – although my fingers do swell when I eat it. It’s more due to the fact that I have a self-control issue. When I eat sugar, I can’t stop. It’s not pretty. So if I don’t eat it at all, I’m okay. Drastic, I know. But I don’t have self-control. I know I already stated that, but it was worth repeating because those mini-size candy bars get me. 1 ends up being 10. Then I get a sugar hangover. That’s not pretty either.
So what do you eat?
I eat paleo style (look it up), so I eat A LOT of vegetables and meat. I also have green smoothies every morning just meaning a smoothie with a lot of spinach in it. Lunch is usually a big salad with mixed greens, protein and other random things like beets or sundried tomatos or anything else I happen to have. Dinner is similar to lunch. I’m not a creative cook like my mom, so I end up eating a lof the same things. Tonight I did have scrambled eggs which was pretty delicious.
Do you eat many gluten substitues?
No. This is a very personal choice because I have nothing against substitutes (aside from the fact that a lot of them are bad). When I found out I was gluten intolerant, I overhauled my entire way of eating. I pretty much cut out all starchy carbs (rice, potatoes and beans are gluten free starchy carbs that I can have in case you’re curious). I also made the decision, that like sugar, if I didn’t have substitutes, I wouldn’t miss the real thing. I occasionally cave, and on vacations, I let myself eat all the gluten-free foods I want. Life is too short to eat clean all the time.
I have so many more questions I could answer, and I may at another time, but this entry is already pretty freakin long, and I need to go shower. While writing this entry, I also managed to unload/load the dishwasher and make almond milk. Yes – make it myself.
If you have any burning questions that can’t wait for another entry in the distance future, please leave them in the comment section, and I promise I’ll answer.