We had just moved into a new neighborhood. Shortly after I became friends with Dale. She was about the same age as me, and was pregnant with her first baby, at the same time I was pregnant with my second child. Dale had been lactose intolerant for years and choose to be vegan. She suspected she needed to be gluten free. Growing up she thought it was normal to have your head and fingertips tingle when you washed your hair. After all, that is what all the commercials would say: “It’s tingling good”. She eventually went gluten free and was officially diagnosed with celiac disease.
After being gluten free her stomach felt better and she felt better as a whole. I felt pretty sorry for her, because after all, gluten is good. I teased her about missing all the breads and cakes and yummy stuff…she couldn’t even have a beer!
Sometimes I wondered, “Could I be gluten intolerant?” “No way” I thought. I like eating bread and pasta and all those good foods and I don’t have horrible stomach pains. Besides that my head doesn’t tingle when I shampoo my hair.
After a few months of extreme exhaustion (sleeping 10-12 hours a night and wanting or needing a 2 hour nap daily) my doctor suggested I change my diet and go off gluten. This was my traditional MD saying this, I had also heard for a couple of years from my naturopath and acupuncturist that I should try this diet change to prevent multiple minor illnesses.
I decided to give this whole gluten free thing a try. I hate being trendy and this seemed to me to be the latest “Boulder” trend. But I did it. I stopped eating anything with gluten. It was hard. I missed my breads, my pasta, and all that other good stuff that is full of gluten. I became obsessive reading labels. At first, I didn’t notice anything drastic. I knew I had to give it a good month or more to let my digestive system heal, “if I was really gluten intolerant, which I knew I wasn’t”. I tried to consider it a challenge to learn all the hidden places where gluten was…like in pre-shredded cheese to keep it from clumping in the package!
It had been 5 weeks before I tried some wheat bread. “My stomach is not hurting”, I told myself. By the time the bloated feeling turned to pain, I had the sinking feeling that yes, I was gluten intolerant. “Crap” I thought. Maybe having loose stools a lot of the time wasn’t normal. I had also noticed in retrospect that my energy levels had been consistently higher.
I consoled myself with the fact that at least I had a friend who had a lot of knowledge to help my transition to eating a gluten free diet. After a few months I experimented and found I can eat sour dough bread. It has something to do with the way the fermentation process works. This only seems to be “safe” for some people with gluten intolerance. I also found that the longer my digestive tracked healed the worse it would feel when I would accidentally eat something with gluten in it.
I have been gluten free for over 6 years now. Or should I say I have tried to be gluten free. There are times when even my best effort can be thwarted. Every now and then I eat something with gluten in it and I will know within an hour. My stomach starts to grumble, I feel bloated, and often have diarrhea.
My son who was 7 began to tell me he was allergic to gluten. I thought this was just a 7 year old being a 7 year old. And besides, I knew how tough it could be to be an adult with food allergies let alone being a 9-year-old boy with food allergies. We did start to notice him complaining of tummy aches more often as well as noticing some behavioral issues (an unusually short temper) so we gave the gluten free thing a try with him. After being off gluten for a month he tried some wheat bread. The first thing we noticed was he became very angry and quick to react. Then he had some diarrhea. So now my son and I are both gluten free because of intolerance. Neither of us has been officially diagnosed with Celiac. Years ago, before becoming gluten free, I had been tested for food allergies including wheat and the tests showed no determinable allergies. Clearly gluten affects me negatively.
My husband and daughter are not gluten free. They do for the most part eat a gluten free diet out of default. I will admit there are times I will by a gluten-laden item for my husband or daughter because it is cheaper. But with time and effort I have learned how to eat and cook gluten free. My son finds it easier and easier to not eat gluten. Every now and then he will try something but the consequences are fast and painful. We are fortunate to live in a town where restaurants and grocery stores are familiar with the term gluten free. We primary travel in Mexico and Central America where corn “flour” is traditionally used as opposed to wheat flour, and yet I am still very careful to ask what things are made of.
It’s not so bad being gluten free…I’ve adapted. Though it’s something I constantly have to be aware of. I still get a big thrill to discover some new-to-me gluten free item!