Gluten be gone

This is one of those posts that could be as long, or as short, as I want it to be. Make it too long and I risk boring you all to death and sounding like a hypochondriac. Make it too short, and it sounds like I’m taking off on some fad diet without any forethought.

The long and the short of it is that I’m going to be doing without gluten for a while.

Those of you who know me well know I suffer from a bunch of pretty-insignificant-in-the-long-run, but chronic and auto-immune-related health complaints. Since no one hates a hypochondriac more than I, it was getting really irritating to me to always have something wrong with me. First the allergies where none were before, getting worse and worse until I had to start getting shots; then the eczema over my whole body, finally spreading to my face and scalp; then the inability to digest beef, followed closely by pork; and last of all becoming lactose intolerant after 31 years of happily chugging copious cow squeezings. Depression. Constant fatigue. I am getting awfully tired of having my body’s own shortcomings impact my quality of life.

Western medicine – while I’m a true believer, no homeopathy for me, thank you – fails me here. It seems to be oriented towards treating the symptoms, not the cause. Eczema? Smear steroids on your skin for 13 years! Allergies? Drug yourself every day! No one seemed interested in trying to find out the root cause of why my immune system keeps flaring up like it is. Unhappily, I started doing reading and research of my own. A lot of reading and research. And much of what I read pointed towards gluten intolerance.

Interestingly, gluten intolerance is hard to see right off the bat in someone living the typical Western diet because it doesn’t manifest itself in direct cause and effect. Lactose intolerance for instance is easy: drink milk, get tummy ache. But gluten can slowly wear down a sensitive system, causing it to attack itself and flare up in strange ways, up to 72 hours after its consumption. In an intestinal system where the villi have become blunted and worn down through years of gluten intake, the gut will gradually lose the ability to function. Onsets of dietary intolerances resulting from the blunting are quite common; a friend of mine, before she was diagnosed, thought she’d developed an allergy to both wine and lactose (she can digest both again just fine now that her gut has healed). Thus a gluten intolerance can manifest itself in various insidious ways, letting the eater go right on eating gluten and blaming the symptoms on other causes.

Anyway, see what I’m getting at? It’s my hope that all my auto-immune diseases have a single root problem: my gut being unable to digest food properly because of a gluten intolerance. I already know my villi are blunted because of a biopsy the GI doc took; but his test for Celiac’s came back negative and he stopped there (the incompetent fool, but that’s another story). Obviously I don’t have Celiac’s, but I could still be gluten intolerant and it could be wearing down my system.

So I’m embarking on a 2-week gluten-free trial period to see what happens. There is no real win here – if my symptoms disappear, I have to live a life without bread, constantly and tirelessly checking labels (I found gluten in my fruit gummy candy this weekend, and yesterday in my juice! Wheat and its byproducts are in everything!) I will become very hard to cook for, and eating out will become a monumental challenge. If my symptoms don’t disappear… well, I can still have pizza, but I’ll itch myself to sleep every night. (And oh, nix the pizza actually because I still won’t be able to eat cheese.)

On the whole, I’m rooting for the trial having a positive outcome. I could deal with the drastic dietary – and lifestyle! – change if it meant feeling like a whole, healthy person again. And not freaking itching all the freaking time.

If nothing else, it’s an adventure! It will stretch my culinary creativity to find meals that are not only gluten-free, red-meat-free, seasonal, local and also low in lactose (I don’t seem to respond poorly to dairy unless it’s a main ingredient). It might be almost like going vegan for a while – I’ve renewed my friendship with Rice Dream after forgetting about the stuff since college days. (I’m having to remind myself to eat carbs; yesterday I got a monumental headache from not eating any.) And there’s always the growing baby to think of – it’s an extra challenge to make sure I’m still eating balanced, healthy meals and enough of them. But one can do anything for two weeks, right?

20 Responses to “Gluten be gone”

  1. Amber Says:

    You know what? I’ll do this with you. Oh lordy it’s gonna’ suck, but that sounds an awful lot like some of my current issues too. (I tend not to eat piggies, but if my stupid fingertips could finally go back to having fingerprints, and there were fewer random tummy cramps, I’m all for it.)
    Even if not- I like you. A lot. So I’ll go through suckyness with you just so you have someone else to complain to.
    SO- I’m going to rely on your blog to come up with totally-amazing-nummy gluten-free recipes. (Not really. But I’m sure you could.) If I find something EXTRA tasty- I’ll let you know.
    We can eat oats, yes?

    *crosses my fingers for you*

    They put gluten in your gummies?! THE BASTARDS!!!!! (Am I allowed to say that?) Seriously…. total jerks for messing up your candy. That’s not cool. Candy is important. *now thinking I should drive two hours to the mall just so I could visit the Sweet Factory. Ooooooh…. Sweet Factory…. I love you too.*

  2. Darcy Says:

    So when I hosted the international girls from Spain one of them had Celiac’s and, consequently, couldn’t eat gluten. You would be amazed what is out there now that is not expensive and pretty much satisfies your need for things like cake and cookies and pizza. This company called Mi-Del makes these animal cookies that are TO DIE FOR (honestly, my sister sent the to me for this girl because she’s a gluten expert, as my niece has Celiac’s, and I sat there with Monica and scarfed them down just as fast as she was! DELICIOUS!). For the 3 weeks that they were here I ate with Monica (i.e. no gluten) and it was pretty darn easy (of course, it was way easy because Xander was lactose intolerant to the max at that time and I couldn’t have even one iota of dairy and so not eating with the general populous was pretty much the norm in my book). Long story long with this comment, Mi del products – fabulous and Bob’s Red Mill Gluten free products were great too (the pizza dough was particularly tasty!).

    GOOD LUCK! 😀

  3. Erin Says:

    You may want to try some of the other AWESOME milks out there! I use to use rice dream before I was introduced to is more healthy brother Coconut milk and it’s delicious cousin Almond milk;) I know exactly how your feeling, at your point in my journey I said the same thing…a positive GI/Celiacs test would be life changing (and it has) but having my health back would be great. If this is your problem, you will thank yourself for making the sacrifice to be healthy!

  4. ohiofarmgirl Says:

    as a hypochondriac myself, i’d say you were in good company! i know a lot of folks who are GF and its changed their life. there are a TON of options out there – even the Mennonite Girls Can Cook have a page on GF stuff! you’ll tackle this one for sure. hang in there baby and i hope this does the trick! (and many people who cant take cows milk are very happy with freshly squeeze milk from goaties…..)
    😉
    *hugs!*

  5. Sam Smith Says:

    I hope its just the gluten there is a lot more gluten awareness these days then ten or even five years ago (at least in this part of Canada) so finding gluten free food shouldn’t be as hard as it used to be. I agree about western medicine, science is based on understanding it’s only shortcomings are that “we/science” don’t understand “everything” :)

  6. diana Says:

    What a wave of support!
    Sam: You’re right, there’s more awareness and even some restaurants that serve GF food like pizza! A friend emailed me a short list.
    OFG: I still haven’t given up having goaties! A few months ago I finally got my hands on some really FRESH goat’s milk and dang that stuff is delicious! It looks insurmountable now but I’m sure I’ll adjust; it’s just one ingredient right?
    Erin: thanks for the tip on the milks, I’ll be sure to try them out. The unsweetened coconut milk was definitely underwhelming, but I’ll try the sweetened. Hey, I’m not counting calories right now. :) I used to be in a place where I said I knew I should do a gluten free trial but I liked bread too much. No longer! Now it seems worth it.
    Darcy – I already know Bob’s, but I’ll look up Mi Del right now! Josh somehow has free Amazon prime so if they don’t carry them in our area we should still be able to get them. :)
    And Amber: WOW! You’re doing it too! That’s amazing! I agree on the random tummy cramps. It would be lovely to have a single day without an upset stomach. We can have oats… but they have to be Certified GF. I think Bob’s Red Mill has some. Quaker’s, etc. are full of wheat dust because they’re processed on the same machinery. Bummer – I just bought like 10 pounds from Costco! :/ You’ll need new soy sauce too if you want to eat sushi, and no beer. Check out this list: http://www.celiac.com/articles/182/1/Unsafe-Gluten-Free-Food-List-Unsafe-Ingredients/Page1.html Stay away from random candy unless you google it first, a lot of the sweeteners are made with wheat glucose, dextrin, etc. Stupid wheat! It’s in EVERYTHING!

  7. Amber Says:

    I realized the soy sauce issue earlier (pff, just sushi? I put soy sauce in almost everything I cook!) Hehe. But…. BUT…… TORTILLA CHIPS!!! How is one supposed to eat absurd amounts of salsa without using tortilla chips to shovel it into their mouth. Harumph!
    Huh. I wonder if the whole wave of people becoming unable to tolerate gluten is because they’ve been over-dosed with the constant bombardment of wheat being in EVERYTHING. A little would be okay… like being stung by bees. The first one or two are fine…. but eventually ones system becomes sensitive and reacts more strongly. “more strongly?” well, I give up on English, but I think it got the thought-train across.

  8. DSton Says:

    Have you heard of the Gluten-Free Girl and the Chef?

    http://glutenfreegirl.com/

    She has a blog and several books. The recipes are great and she’s a pretty good writer too. Good luck!

  9. Heidi Says:

    I think it is a good thing to try and you are brave to try it, but did you check with the OBGYN and the pediatrician as to how it may impact the little Taquito?

  10. Diane Says:

    I’m in the exact same shoes!! I’ve been playing with eating primal for a few months now but I keep backsliding and, poof, I get all icky again. I could go on but, yeah, I’m there with you. I need moral support, dang it. LOL Can we form a stinkin’ group or something? It’s the family thing that gets me backsliding: Getting busy and needing something quick & easy or hubby & kids “needing” me to bake bread. I won’t even mention pizza because that’s my own personal weakness and no one’s fault but mine.

    It’s not just wheat for me, though. It’s all grains and legumes. No corn — and you know that’s in EVERYTHING these days.

    Bah.

  11. Amber Says:

    *wonders if I can cheat* I’m SURE I can find tortilla chips that haven’t been subjected to wheat flour! Just because my favorite can’t guarantee it- that doesn’t doom me to two weeks free of chips & salsa. You can’t do corn!? If it IS a wheat gluten issue that you turn out to have- once your system has recovered, do you think you could re-introduce things?
    D’awwww! “little Taquito” *rubs your tummy*

  12. Amber Says:

    I just did the most lovely ballerina spin! I sprinkled turmeric on my onions in the pan, turned around, opened the fridge, picked up the soy sauce- did a complete 360* spin on my sock and put it back into the fridge. We TOTALLY need to form a stinkin’ group!

  13. diana Says:

    Amber – I think you are EXACTLY right. It’s the little bit being in everything that becomes so toxic! It’s like arsenic, in that you can take it and take it until you can’t. By the way… You can do corn and tortilla chips just fine! Just double check the ingredients list that there are no wheat byproducts, and they weren’t made in a facility which processes wheat. I agree, if we can’t have crackers and cheese then we darn well better be able to have some nachos! :) (When Diane was talking about no corn, she was talking about eating “primal” which eliminates ALL grains, beans, & nearly all carbs too! It’s Atkins-tacular!) Yes, after you go gluten-free for a while you can start reintroducing stuff which previously upset your tummy; not wheat products obviously, that’s permanent, but I plan to try drinking a glass of milk after a couple weeks. My friend who thought she was allergic to dairy and wine and beans tried them again after 4 weeks and was fine! No longer allergic! Eventually I’ll try some red meat again … it’s scary though, knowing how much it will hurt if I’m wrong. But ya gotta take the scientific approach, right? :)

    Diane: I can’t help with the all-grains thing, but I’ve been told that gluten-free pizza dough made with Bob’s Red Mill’s GF pizza dough mix is very tasty! It might be easier to just kill off one grain at a time…? I wanted to do primal for a while too but it is just too hardcore for me. Though I have seen the results first-hand in a friend of mine that now looks totally bad-ass. But yes, corn is in FREAKING EVERYTHING. Everything that is not wheat, is corn! Even just sweeteners. It drives me NUTS – and we eat barely any processed food. How does the typical American do it?

    Heidi: I don’t think it will have any impact on the baby if I don’t eat wheat. I am still eating everything else, including all dairy products except straight glasses of milk. It’s not a “diet” like a calorie-restricting diet, after all. Think about indigenous Guatemalans that never eat wheat: just beans, rice, and tortillas. I’m eating way more variety than that and they still make healthy babies! :)

    Dora: I do read gluten-free girl! 😀 I know she just came out with a beautiful cookbook, too!

  14. Diane Says:

    FYI: I’m Diane, not Diana. I’m on here to confuse you all. 😆

    I’m the one with the corn thing — and most grains. When I first started figuring all of this out, I found that corn has many of the same things as wheat. Maybe that’s not the right way to say it. Many of its parts wreck the same havoc on our systems as wheat. So, if you have trouble with wheat, there’s a good chance that corn will give you grief as well.

    I can’t think of specific links offhand but, if you nose around Mark’s Daily Apple, he has info on wheat, corn, oats, etc. Look for the articles with supporting studies and that leads you to more reading and more reading…. until your eyes bleed.

  15. diana Says:

    Seriously Diane?? Oh noes… well, we shall see. I have read that ingesting any kind of sugar (raw honey less so) can lead to a proliferation of the bad bacteria in your gut. But I’m not ready to give up sweets just yet! Instead I’m drinking a kombucha a day, sometimes a kefir too, and at least one raw thing a day. Maybe eliminating wheat on top of that will do it for me. Cross your fingers!

    Amber: Get thee some gluten-free soy sauce, it’s easy to find! After all, traditionally soy sauce IS gf, it’s only industrialization that has started adding in wheat because it’s cheap. Check out a health food store or Whole foods or something. I love to put soy sauce in my soups and sauces for an extra little touch of flavor. Don’t force yourself to do without, lady! :)

    I just found out that fake crab has wheat in it too, so no more california rolls for me… -sob-! A friend suggested asking them to sub in shrimp or something instead, which sounds like a good option.

  16. Heidi Says:

    If you are really going gung-ho gluten free, one site I read suggested no beer (malt), separate toaster for gluten-free toast vs regular toast (due to crumbs left over from regular toast), baking or cooking gluten-free recipe before regular recipe (cookies or grilling stuff), no regular bread person double-dipping when using a spread (peanut butter) before the gluten-free person spreads it on his own and it goes on from there. This would be for the extremely medically-challenged person (celiac disease). But I don’t think you are going to be that drastic, are you…at least at first. They also suggest not using latex or rubber gloves due to the starch powder used inside them, checking laundry and personal soaps and shampoos…the list goes on. You are just talking about trying to not EAT directly noticible sources of gluten, aren’t you?
    On a lighter note: Godfather’s Pizza apparently offers a gluten-free pizza crust pizza. Haven’t tried it–we don’t have Godfather’s Pizza here, but good to know for your Pizza-loving blog-reader.
    I take it back: apparently there is now a gluten-free beer. Maybe that is a niche to be explored if you like to brew your own…
    Here is a website for the Celiac Sprue site with more dietary advice:
    http://www.csaceliacs.org/gluten_choices.php
    Forgive if I have overwhelmed. Let me know if it works.

  17. Amber Says:

    OOP!!! Yep- totally switched the Diana and Diane. OH NO!!! I had birfday-treat sushi today, and SPECIFICALLY left out the soy sauce (’cause I looked just-in-case but theirs still had wheat in it)…. but there WERE some California Rolls involved. D’oh! Okay. Trying again tomorrow.

  18. Michelle Says:

    I gave up wheat back in January and did great until this last week when we visited friends. I noticed my face cleared up being off the wheat. My mom and sister did the same thing and they no longer have eczema. With my current autoimmune issues, I’m looking into giving up dairy too. That one is much harder for me since I increased my dairy substantially when I gave up the carbs. I’m curious to hear how this works out for you. Good luck!

  19. Diana Guillermo Says:

    That’s really interesting Michelle! How long did it take before their eczema was gone? And dairy… yeah I was going to give it up for the trial too but haven’t. It was too hard to give up both at once. I substantially reduced it though – I’m lucky I enjoy soy milk. But then I put a splash of cow milk on my corn cereal this morning and had a sour stomach. 😛

  20. Glenda Says:

    I found rice tortillas at Whole Foods. They are lighter and yummy. You can make your own bread without gluten.
    Enjoy your own egg noodles made with rice flour.
    Nowdays I eat more red potatoes and B-Rice.
    I tested my self for the alergic reacation by taking my pulse before I ate gluten then a bit after and it went up a lot. Thats how you can tell.

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