Intro: Gluten: My Old Frenemy

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Photo by Blake Wisz on Unsplash

I hope they serve tacos in hell.

Or just anywhere they won’t make me sick.

I have been dealing with Celiac disease (not silly-ass disease as I heard it called) for about a lifetime, but it manifested itself in my mid 20’s. Bye-bye artisanal beer!  Bye-bye convenience of eating out anywhere!  Bye-bye social life—sort of!

By the way, Celiac disease is an auto-immune disorder (your body attacks itself) when ingesting gluten (a protein in wheat). In case you don’t believe in Science, Celiac disease does exist and is literally a pain in the ass. Wheat is in everything from spices to pills, even beauty products. It is typically genetic, but may possibly be caused by a virus, too.

And if you think so many people would be gluten-free as a “fad,” you are oblivious. It is not a fad for me, but my daily life. It has changed my life to the point where my social life plummeted for quite a bit. Think about it: our lives revolve around going out to eat? Whether it’s fast-food, diner food, or an expensive restaurant, I can never be too sure or safe. I have not eaten fast-food in five years and do not miss any of it. I simply miss having a care-free attitude about what I eat, not constantly panicking I am going to get sick. And the sickness doesn’t just go away in an hour or day. It can last for a week, hence I do a tremendous amount of cooking at home. Luckily, I am a great cook and throw dinner parties as to have a social life again: I am that sensitive.

If you are a waiter or bartender and someone says “gluten-free,” please don’t sigh and roll your eyes. There are millions of people out there who have Celiac and gluten-sensitivity. What are some symptoms?  Let me share with you some gross symptoms for funsies:

  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Constipation
  • Canker sores
  • Bloating
  • Dermatitis

Okay, I think you have been grossed out enough. Here are some unpleasant, but not so gross symptoms:

  • Anxiety (I call it “Hulking”— like your skin is crawling from the inside and you want to explode)
  • Brain fog (I can’t remember anything or say really dumb things…totally the gluten’s fault)
  • Feeling sad for no apparent reason
  • Restlessness and sleeping problems (mostly falling and staying asleep)
  • Racing thoughts
  • Joint pain (there have been times I have to roll myself out of bed)
  • Social isolation (reference above…I was told by a guy he wouldn’t date me because I couldn’t go everywhere to eat…foodies are hardcore!)

There are disorders related to Celiac, too:

  • IBS
  • Arthritis
  • MS
  • Thyroid problems (hyper or hypo)
  • Type 1 Diabetes
  • Anxiety/Depression
  • Autism

These symptoms sound like they can be other disorders, right? I eliminated other possible disorders as a main cause of my of my problems by keeping a food journal. If you don’t know what a food journal is, you mark every time you eat something (what it is and what time you ate it including the brand if that applies). I figured out it takes 36 hours from when I ingest gluten that I have symptoms. Even the smallest bit of cross contamination…like when people who work in a restaurant pick out the croutons of a salad then serve it, I get sick. If it is bad enough, then symptoms occur within an hour. The mystifying part is everyone absorbs gluten differently and has varying levels of reactions. If you went gluten-free and it didn’t work, you’re either not trying hard enough or you are right and it’s not gluten that is your problem. I know, sounds dumb, right?  I have heard this before, that people said they went back after eating gluten-free to eating wheat, they felt sick. Their conclusion was that being gluten-free did not work. It is not because you have not had wheat in three weeks. I don’t get sick if I didn’t have rice in three weeks, because I am not allergic to it. It means you are allergic to wheat. That’s for you to find out on your own.

Just a tip, if you think you have Celiac want to be absolutely positive, don’t go on a gluten-free diet yet until you get tested—the results will be negative. Testing for food allergies is typically a gamble or at least in my opinion of what I experienced. A doctor once told me not to be gluten-free, because it is “too hard.” Literally, if you are not getting the right advice, trust your gut.

On top of feeling physically like crap, the emotional part can be even worse. Here are some tips on how I deal:

  • Exercise (probably the most important part, even if it’s just a walk)
  • Get outdoors (goes along with exercise, but even sitting outside helps)
  • Netflix binge if you can’t go outside (the more mindless the better)
  • Do your research. I am still learning after five years
  • Do something creative or get a hobby
  • Go out and socialize
  • If you’re feeling particularly grumpy, do the opposite and turn off your phone for a little while. Tune out.

I know being gluten-free is an immense challenge and messes with your life. But if you need to be gluten-free, it can be the best thing you ever did. I will be here for you all suffering, growing, and learning. Growing up as an Italian-American, I know how it can be frustrating not to have wheat. Over time (it has gotten tremendously easier with knowledge and gluten-free products available), you will learn to live gluten-free or help someone you care about who has to. A lot of gluten-free products are not healthy either, so be careful. Doctors warn people about going gluten-free, because there are not nutritional additives in gluten-free food we would normally eat (assuming people are idiots and won’t eat nutritious food, vitamins are added to junk food). You can get nutrition supplemented by eating food with nutrients (fruits especially because sugar is not a typical additive in gluten-free foods…unless you are getting junk foods, but that is not the right type of sugar either). I learned the hard way and had lots of sugar crashes when I first started going gluten-free. You can make a balanced diet. I found I ate much healthier by eating gluten-free (organic, non-GMO, non-processed foods, whole foods), when I found my balance and you can, too.

I will leave you with this:  Life is a journey. It may as well be a healthy, enjoyable one. You can and will enjoy life being gluten-free. I will hold your hand on that journey with recipes, tips, information, resources, and life-experiences. Feel free to message me with any questions at adawnpica.ttw@gmail.com

Yours truly,

A. Dawn

 

2 thoughts on “Intro: Gluten: My Old Frenemy

  1. Sue Penedos August 16, 2017 / 11:48 am

    Great post! Very informative. My son’s long time girlfriend is allergic to wheat, rice, and corn. However, I have found that cooking with Whole Foods, spices, and herbs, that there are unlimited delicious recipes that are easy to make. It is not a hardship for me at all, cooking for her. I just have to be careful, and read all ingredients. Eating out is really hard, yes, but because of people like you, sharing your experiences and speaking out, the gluten free choices are much more easy to find. Good luck.

    Like

  2. A. Dawn Pica August 16, 2017 / 12:12 pm

    Sue, I agree. It isn’t impossible and actually can be really easy if you know what to do (obviously sounds like you do). I taught people how to do it, but I think for those who are used to eating such an unhealthy way, it might be a bit more challenging.

    Like

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