Thursday, April 17, 2014

Gluten Free Is Do-Able. Or So I Keep Telling Myself.

There are very few one-size-fits-all solutions. –L. Tom Perry, Obedience Through Our Faithfulness, April 2014

My tummy has always been a little fussy. I was tested for Celiac in December of 2012 and it came back negative. I knew that dairy bothered me so in January of 2013 I decided that it was time to give it up completely in hope of easing the discomfort. And for a couple of weeks, things seemed better. But it wasn't long before the the gastrointestinal distress returned. Since I'd tested negative for Celiac I was sure it couldn't be gluten, and I stubbornly refused to give up my daily bread. I mean, I'd already taken the cheese off my pizza. If I took away the crust too, I'd be left with sauce and pepperoni and that just didn't cut it in my book. I figured that I just had a more sensitive digestive system and that it was something I was going to have to live with.

About five weeks ago things became pretty unbearable. My stomach hurt all the time. It hurt so much that it woke me up in the wee hours of the morning, and as I laid in bed tossing and turning and waiting for relief, I started to worry. I got up and started cutting scraps into 2" squares, and I worried some more. And I was convinced that something was VERY wrong. I e-mailed P., who is dairy-free and also gluten free. She also tested negative for Celiac, but is gluten intolerant and feels much better without it. We've discussed our intestinal woes on occasion and she urged me to try giving up gluten for a couple of weeks {as she has done on several other occasions in the past}. I figured that the only thing I had to loose were a few worrisome symptoms, so I did. And I made an appointment with the doctor who took some blood, did a bunch of tests, including for Celiac {which was negative again}, and then sent me to a gastro doc where I was subjected to more and less pleasant tests. Everything is normal. Except it's not, because my body doesn't tolerate gluten.

Within just a few days of giving up the stuff, I started to feel better. A lot better. And I got to wondering why, suddenly, so many people are gluten intolerant or have Celiac disease? I mean, wheat is the staff of life, and all that. Why would our bodies suddenly turn on us? I followed a few rumors, like that hybridized wheat was to blame, or genetically altered corn, cotton, alfalfa and papaya {among other foods} were to blame. And someone to throw the blame on is just what I was looking for. I wanted to buy into those rumors, because they were on the internet, so they must be true. After more consultation with P., she pointed me in a different direction, and it would seem that lectins, gluten and phytates are just plain hard to digest. I suspect that, coupled with a diet high in the grains that contain these components, would eventually lead to rebellion. And it looks like the rebellion has won in my body.

While stubbornly refusing to believe that gluten was an issue, I thought giving up bread was the worst thing in the world. Now, almost five weeks on the other side, I can't believe I spent so much time eating myself sick. My tummy is SO much happier and I feel a lot better. Before, my brain felt like I should always be eating, even if my stomach was full. Now, my blood sugar stays pretty steady and my stomach is in charge of when I eat and it knows when I'm full too.

Granted, it is a more work to try and come up with interesting and tasty things to eat. The first week was a snap. I was so anxious for relief that I happily met the challenge. The menu I already had planned for that week lent itself nicely to being gluten free. All I had to do was pick up some GF soy sauce and I was set. The next week was much harder, because I was pretty sure we'd eaten all the things that are gluten free the week before. Somehow, I managed to scrape together another menu. It was seriously lacking in imagination. The week after that I put together another. And then another. We've only had a few repeats {the Not-So-Little Bugs love chicken tacos, and I'm good with having a crunchy corn tortilla and leaving off the cheese as long as there is plenty of salsa, homemade guacamole and dairy-free sour cream}. I'm hoping to develop a fairly well-rounded répertoire of menu items because fast food is quickly becoming a distant memory {although I've had some very lovely salads lately from Wendy's, Chick-fil-A and a local cafe. And I really love an "unwich" from Jimmy John's – think lettuce wrap sandwich}. I've made quite a few Asian recipes because they're mostly dairy-free, and if you've got the right soy sauce then gluten isn't an issue either. Potatoes and rice and quinoa have made appearances. We even tried gluten free pasta and I was pretty impressed. I tried a loaf of gluten free bread and wasn't impressed at all with that. When I left dairy behind, I discovered that it really is best not to try to substitute ingredients, but rather to find new recipes that don't require those particular ingredients. Although I am going to try P.'s gluten free double chocolate chip cookie recipe. I haven't had chocolate for five weeks, people! Five weeks! Almost. {Sidebar: did you know that Oreos are dairy free? Makes you wonder what is in that creme filling, doesn't it?} Eventually, I'll get around to trying homemade gluten free breads. Perhaps when I no longer have to go to work every day.

In the meantime, I think it has been a very positive change. I still have days here and there when I can't figure out why I've got a belly ache. I wonder if I forgot to read a label, if there are other items that my body doesn't like or if there were cross-contamination issues. But I'm not going to let it get me down. And I'm not going back to a pizza filled life. To be honest, I remember pizza and garlic bread, ice cream, cookies and cake with fondness, but I don't crave them. I don't even really want to eat them. Jimmy John's put cheese that I didn't ask for on my unwich a few weeks ago and I didn't notice until I'd eaten about ¾ of the sandwich {it was wrapped tight in lettuce, you know}. Within a half-hour of eating, I felt uncomfortably nauseated, and my tummy was pretty unhappy for the next 36 hours or so. I'd rather eat a nice salad or some beans and rice and fresh fruit makes a delightfully satisfying dessert.

Yes, I suppose gluten free is do-able, after all.

6 comments:

P. said...

I'm so happy you're feeling better! Kudos for giving GF a try and being proactive about your health. And feel free to hit me up for recipes anytime!

janicca77 said...

I feel like we are on the same path. I've always had a “bad" stomach and have had many tests done. I did have several ulcers at one print, but that was from stress and too much ibuprofen. I gave up milk and most dairy last year because it would always come back to haunt me and am seriously regretting the spaghetti and homemade French bread I just ate. I think it's time to switch to one of the many alternative diets I've considered. I hope you succeed and feel better and I may be emailing you to snag a few recipes!

Shay said...

I hear your pain. Im a huge bread eater . My Mum has been GF for a long time due to Coeliac's disease and Im used to cooking GF when she comes to stay but Im not sure I could do GF and dairy free !

Le Anna said...

Believe it or not, I actually live in a gluten-free friendly ward; so much so that we have a special gluten-free bread tray and one boy is assigned to pass it to those families who need it (we currently have at least 3 families, but we have had as many as five who need it). Anyway, at one time I was the visiting teacher for one sister who needed to eat gluten-free, and so we became well trained in what treats we could bring by(well actually my partner because she was the baker!). One of the things we learned from her was that if you try a gluten free recipe, especially mixes, and you don't like it, try a different brand. She said that often, with enough work, you could find a brand that works - especially with cookies and bread. I don't know if this will help you any, but I thought I would throw it out there in case. Having lived with a mom who has a ton of food allergies, I know that finding alternative can sometimes be a challenge, but it is definitely worth it. Good luck - and glad you are feeling better!

Jenna Lovell said...

I was sad to hear how long you have suffered in trying to figure out the causes of your discomfort, but of course glad to hear that you've experienced a few successful solutions lately. I wish you more and more success! I can't fathom how hard it would be to change your diet so drastically. Best wishes to you in your new changes! Hugs!

Iris said...

I do some things GF. I'll have to send you a list of stuff I've tried. Some I prefer over the regular...